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Castoriadis et la question de la vérité

 | 
Philippe Caumières
, 
Sophie Klimis
, 
Laurent Van Eynde

What is Knowledge? Castoriadis on Truth, Signification and Symbolism

Angelos Mouzakitis

Texte intégral

Introduction

1Anyone familiar with Castoriadis’ works won’t fail to trace therein recurrent attempts at establishing a thorough critique of inherited thought in all its guises. This critique is both comprehensive and challenging as it aims at the overcoming of traditional ontology and metaphysics without abandoning the principles of autonomy, truth and responsibility and without severing its own position from scientific discourse. In effect, the development of Castoriadis’ critique of inherited thought follows the obverse path of a host of critical reflections on science and metaphysics, which either radically part with certain prevalent aspects of philosophy and science or ultimately reject the whole legacy of ‘western metaphysics’. A celebrated account of the former critical attitude can be traced in the Frankfurt school’s rejection of ‘positivist’ science, epistemology and philosophy, while the latter attains its most striking exemplification in Heidegger’s attempt to overcome metaphysics and in his unwillingness to take into account developments in social or natural science on the assumption that philosophy should operate on a more fundamental ontological level than science.

  • 1 Adams (S.), Castoriadis and the Circle of Physis and Nomos: A Critical Interpretation of his Philo (...)
  • 2 Castoriadis (C.), «Le délabrement de l’Occident», in Les carrefours du labyrinthe IV. La montée de (...)

2On the one hand there are certain similarities between Castoriadis’ critique of inherited thought and the accounts mentioned above. It has been noted that his thorough critique of the entire philosophical tradition bears some similarities with the “critique of identitarian logic” in Adorno’s Negative Dialectics, while it invites comparisons with Nietzsche and Heidegger among others1. On the other hand, unlike even the early Frankfurt School thinkers, Castoriadis does not confine himself to the area of the social sciences or to a critique of the mode of reasoning promoted by the natural sciences. His erudition in biology, contemporary physics and mathematics, indeed his “fascination with mathematics” – if I may borrow Adams’ expression – complement his critique of identitary logic and promote a complex and multilayered theorisation of being. Castoriadis thus aims primarily at the elucidation of the presuppositions and distortions of traditional science and philosophy, while at the same time attempting to create at once a novel scientific and philosophical attitude and ultimately introducing a meta-philosophical perspective. It is characteristic of Castoriadis’ stance towards the scientific and philosophical legacy of the west that he explicitly acknowledges an inextricable relationship between education, social and individual reflexivity and the project of autonomy2. It would be fair to suggest that insofar as the project of lifelong education and self-education is directly linked with the establishment of social and individual autonomy, it also retains aspects of the Greek conception of paideia as well as of the – central in the context of German philosophy – notion of Bildung. In what follows I will attempt to delineate the main aspects of Castoriadis theorisation of truth and knowledge and to point to its theoretical significance for contemporary thought and to the aporias it also generates.

I. Truth and the Critique of Tradition

3Pivotal in Castoriadis’ critique of inherited thought is his claim that it has always obscured the nature of human imagination, which traditional logic has primarily acknowledged only in its derivative mode as re-constructive imagination. In this manner the originary, radical mode of imagination, i.e. creative imagination remains largely unacknowledged as long as we move within the horizon of traditional thinking. Importantly, in one of his essays Castoriadis maintains that a certain mode of ‘imagination’ and ‘logic’ pertain to all living organisms. Indeed, these organisms organise themselves as self-relating, individual beings exactly on the grounds of their ability to represent the so-called ‘external’ world and to orient themselves towards it. However, as far as we know, in the case of non-human living beings these simple modes of imagination and logic remain always bound to the functional requirements of the organism and the environment. In contrast, human beings are characterised by the overcoming of functionality that constitutes for Castoriadis their fundamental a-functionality.

  • 3 Castoriadis (C.), «Logic, imagination, reflection», in World in Fragments, ed. and transl. by Davi (...)
  • 4 Luhmann (N.), Social Systems, transl. by John Bednarz, Jr. and Dirk Baecker. Stanford University P (...)
  • 5 Adams (S.), «Castoriadis and autopoiesis», in Thesis Eleven, Vol. 76, No. 88, 2007, p. 77-78.

4Far from denying the biological and environmental affects placed on the human being, the introduction of this term wishes to call attention to the autonomization of imagination from all functional aspects of life and to the concurrent domination of ‘representational pleasure’ over ‘organ pleasure’. Indeed, Castoriadis maintains that even the creation of the ‘social individual’ that ensues from the determinations exercised by the social-historical on the psyche of a newborn human is premised on this primacy of the ‘representational pleasure’3. Needless to say that it is exactly this a-functionality that guarantees human freedom over against natural necessity — conceived in terms of the over-determinations placed upon biological organisms — and also individual and societal autonomy. It should be evident that the explicit acknowledgment of a-functionality as an essential characteristic of being human on both collective and individual levels also marks Castoriadis’ radical differentiation from functional and systemic accounts, even from those that like Luhmann’s attempt to offer a postfunctional, decentred account of systems. This holds insofar as Luhmann conceptualises closure and openness as relative and incessantly shifting determinations of the given4, whereas Castoriadis postulates a radical breach of this systemic logic via the introduction of elements (and of regions of being) that do not follow the tenets of systemic logic. Moreover, and despite his positive assessment of contemporary developments in the field of biology, Castoriadis retains some critical distance from systems theory mainly because he traces therein elements of biological reductionism. This becomes especially manifest in the case of autopoiesis, a concept Luhmann borrows from Varela and Maturana and gives it a prominent place in the construction of his version of systems theory. Importantly, it is the very concept of autopoiesis that arguably blurs the boundaries between human creation and the self-development of a living being in general5.

  • 6 Castoriadis (C.), The Imaginary Institution of Society, transl. by Kathleen Blamey, Polity Press, (...)

5Indeed, it is difficult to overestimate the importance of the relationship between the symbolic and the imaginary for the development of Castoriadis’ argument against functionalism. Being the origin of representations (of pure images) the imaginary is conceived as the source of any symbolic structure, which it also needs in order to transform the ‘virtual’ status of its images into something actual. Castoriadis rightly observes here that language is not the only symbolic structure but that symbolism extends to all social institutions, while in a sense it is a fundamental feature of the social-historical institution as such. Importantly, symbolism operates on different layers or degrees, while it is not only conditioned by its imaginary origin but also from nature and from the existing social structures6.

  • 7 Castoriadis (C.), Φιλοσοφία και Επιστήμη: Ένας διάλογος με τον Γεώργιο Λ. Ευαγγελόπουλο, Ευρασία, (...)

6Arguably, Castoriadis offers us an interpretation of the human being that is not distinguished from other living beings solely – or even primarily – by its being endowed with logos (as ζώον λόγον έχων or as animal rationale) but as being able to unfold its imaginary and logical powers in what I would take the liberty to call a ‘relatively free’ manner, i.e. in a manner that each time is the outcome of a temporary synthesis between freedom and necessity. Since in Castoriadis’ account the human being is the only being endowed with the ability to properly create meaning ex nihilo creating and constantly recreating itself, radical imagination is said to constitute the common source of all human activities. Consequently, logic, philosophy and science are understood as relatively autonomous and independent activities, which however apart from developing in relation to one another also share a common origin and at the same time have to convincingly account for what is interpreted as ‘reality’ in a given social-historical context. It is well known that Castoriadis discerns in the development of the different currents of philosophy and of the various branches of modern science the domination of one common principle, that of identitary-ensemblistic logic. This logic is best exemplified in the so called naïve theory of sets in mathematics and in the law of non-contradiction, or that of the ‘exclusion of the third’ in traditional logic. It follows that in a certain sense – and with the exception of relatively recent developments in physics – identitary logic presents for Castoriadis the fundamental – although usually unacknowledged – dimension of metaphysics, which has an essentially instrumental component7.

  • 8 Castoriadis (C.), «Logic, imagination, reflection», op. cit., p. 264, 267, 269.

7In effect, Castoriadis presents us with a complex schema where the development of logic, philosophy and science is mediated by the act of social historical instituting, the latter being premised on radical imagination. Critical are in this respect the two main aspects of the social-historical institution that support any consequent act of instituting, i.e. the proto-institutions of legein and teuxein. For Castoriadis each act of instituting is a concurrent creation of possibilities and of a certain closure, it opens up new dimensions of meaning while at the same time precluding other such possibilities. In other words, although human beings are always involved in a ‘search for meaning’ this search is always channelled through the institutions of a given social-historical formation, of what Castoriadis following – to some extent – Bacon calls idola Tribus. With this conception Castoriadis pays heed to the fact that although radical imagination remains free from determinations, it always creates figures of the thinkable, it opens up ways of thinking and addressing the various ‘worlds’ engulfing human life while excluding others8. Evidently, this conception renders problematic – and complements with the introduction of new elements – the prevalent in modern philosophy division between subject and object as well as the relation between thought, theory and reality. In truth, in the history of modern and contemporary philosophy the problematic nature of the subject-object divide (and this also holds for the relationship between theory and ‘reality’) has been often identified and various solutions have been proposed.

  • 9 Zahavi (D.), Husserl’s Phenomenology, Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, 2003, p. 51
  • 10 Husserl (E.), «Philosophy and the crisis of European man», in Phenomenology and the Crisis of Phil (...)

8Some characteristic – although not exhaustive – instances of the historical trajectory of this growing awareness could be briefly mentioned here: Fist, one has to mention Marx’s metaphor of base and superstructure and his attribution of a special role to the functioning of ideology qua distorted consciousness together with the importance the conception of class consciousness holds for the mediation between the world and the knowing subject. Freud’s idea of the unconscious mediating the relationship between consciousness and reality is also of major importance as is Husserl’s identification of the lifeworld as shaping the horizon of subjective intentionality9 and consequently also as the unacknowledged ground of scientific discourse. Indeed the whole project of Husserl’s phenomenology could be seen as a response to the need to provide a solid foundation for the sciences coupled by an increasing awareness of the dire consequences of what we could call scientism. Indeed, Husserl understood phenomenology as the only viable way out of the crisis of European science and philosophy – in fact of western civilisation as a whole – a crisis that in his view was premised on the identification of science with naturalism and objectivism10.

  • 11 Berger (P.) and Luckmann (Th.), The Social Construction of Reality. A Treatise in the Sociology of (...)
  • 12 Fuller (S.), «Social Epistemology: A philosophy for sociology or a sociology for philosophy?», in (...)
  • 13 Hodgson (B.), «Logical Positivism and the Vienna Circle», in The Edinburgh Companion to Twentieth (...)

9Moreover, phenomenology had a considerable impact on the social sciences and their epistemology through Schutz and later through Berger and Luckmann’s work11, which was aimed as a contribution to the sociology of knowledge. Together with earlier contributions to this field – like Manheim’s attempt to link modes of thinking with interest-bound social groups, it paved the way for the development of more radical – and arguably one-sided – approaches to the problem of truth that aim at the adequate theorisation of the place of the knowing subject “in the production of social knowledge12”, like social constructivism, social epistemology etc., to name but a few approaches of this kind. Habermas’ idea of communicative reason that attempts to synthesise insights of such diverse traditions as phenomenology and pragmatism should be also included in this attempt to adequately conceptualise the aforementioned relationship. In all these cases it is not only the nature of ‘reality’ that is challenged but also the nature of knowing and the essence of ‘truth’. In addition to this the very nature of scientific and philosophical discourses, the idea of method and logical positivism’s ideal concerning the unity of science and the development of all scientific branches following the model of the natural sciences13 are unavoidably put into question.

  • 14 Castoriadis (C.), The Imaginary Institution of Society, op. cit., p. 332.

10Castoriadis’ own position at the same time partakes of the basic insights of this tradition and aims at its radical transformation. Interestingly, Castoriadis traces the first thematization of the problems confronting any human attempt at the comprehension of being(s) in the very beginnings of philosophy, and more specifically in Plato’s distinction between doxa and aletheia. Importantly, Castoriadis argues that in the history of thinking this distinction has given rise to a fetishism of reality that privileged both res extensa and res cogitans over against representation and imagination14. Castoriadis’ response to this problem presents significant novel aspects in relation to the theoretical perspectives briefly discussed above. First, the introduction of radical imagination springing from the unconscious does not simply amount to the addition of one more element in the process of knowing. It rather points us to a different mode of being corresponding to the unconscious and consequently to radical imagination, which Castoriadis attempts to capture with the notion of magma. Indeed Castoriadis radicalises here Freud’s own insights on the challenges posed by certain characteristics of the unconscious, such as its ignorance of time, its indifference towards the law of non-contradiction, etc. Arguably, with this move Castoriadis introduces us to an ‘a-logical’ dimension of being and ‘being-human’. In line with what has been said above in relation to the a-functionality of the human being, this ‘a-logical’ mode would signify here not the destruction of logic in its various guises but a way of being that exceeds the boundaries of established logic, in the sense that it cannot be explained and adequately analysed with the aid of traditional categories of reasoning. It is therefore essential to point out that this mode of being is not identical with illusion or falsity but that – among other things – it also makes logic possible in the first place.

II. The historicity of knowing: Epistemological and philosophical implications

  • 15 Castoriadis (C.), «Science moderne et interrogation philosophique», in Les Carrefours du Labyrinth (...)
  • 16 Feyerabend (P.), «Realism and the historicity of knowledge», in The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 86 (...)
  • 17 Frisby (D.), «Introduction to English translation», in The Positivist Dispute in German Sociology,(...)

11First, it is quite important that Castoriadis even speaks of a ‘logic’ of magmas and regrets not having had the occasion to develop it, perhaps leaving this task open to all his readers of present and future. It seems to me that a fruitful path for the elucidation of this logic would entail the re-interpretation of the old problem concerning the relationship between myth and reason. It also seems to me that in order for this endeavour to be successful, it is imperative to develop a theoretical perspective that would surpass the horizon of the debate between the proponents of the enlightenment and those of romanticism. Secondly, Castoriadis premises his account on the insight that what we have traditionally thought in identitary terms as ‘being’ (i. e. as a unity) should be thought in terms of a plurality, which is not ultimately ‘absorbed’ into unity. Hence one of Castoriadis’ main arguments against Heideggerian philosophy is directed against Heidegger’s conception of the so-called ‘ontological difference’ and his attempt to reclaim for philosophy an awareness of the meaning of ‘Being’. Although it would be fair to say that Heidegger from Being and Time onwards addresses the problem of plurality through the supposition of a variety of meanings and manifestations of the most indeterminate of notions, i.e. ‘Being’, Castoriadis maintains than in essence Heidegger fails to move beyond a unitary/singular conception of being. In contrast, Castoriadis interprets in a distinctive manner Aristotle’s dictum that being can be said in a variety of ways (το ον λέγεται πολλαχώς). He argues that only partly –and only from one perspective-can the different modes of being be interpreted in terms of unity and therefore as parts of an essentially singular whole. Since plurality and unity are essential categories of metaphysics, Castoriadis’ conception intends a depiction of plurality that is not dissolved in the postulated unity. Castoriadis develops this point further in arguing that identitary logic corresponds to a specific aspect or layer of being(s), which he calls first natural stratum. It is of great importance that this is an aspect/stratum of every being but that it hardly exhausts the possible modes of being of beings. It is certainly not accidental that Castoriadis explicitly acknowledges the ‘regionality’ of being, i.e. the essential co-existence of continuity and rupture and that he also attributes different ‘logics’ corresponding to the various ‘departments’ of being15. Thus, although Castoriadis’ work is mainly dedicated to the establishment of the difference between the ensemblistic and the magmatic dimension of societal being with the explicit aim of promoting the ideal of autonomy, it is evident that his insight is of greater ontological importance. In addition to this, the concept of the regionality of being suggests that the ideal of naturalism (at least in its traditional form) seems out of date and impossible. It is not only that in the field of the social sciences this ideal, ultimately the ideal of the mathematization of every scientific language, took the form of an obsession with statistics that relegated method to the status of caricature. Rather, the most important consequence of this conception refers to the impossibility of a general theory that would encompass the different regions of being. This latter is a commonly accepted problem between philosophers of science and it is powerfully captured in Dyson’s dictum “nature likes to be compartmentalised”16. Viewed from this perspective, even the old problem of naturalism that gave rise to debates regarding the possible difference between the natural and the social sciences like the nineteenth century Methodenstreit, the ensuing Weltrurteilsstreit and the 1960s-1970s Positivismusstreit17, attains new significance.

  • 18 Castoriadis (C.), «Logic, imagination, reflection», op. cit., 1997, p. 217.

12In effect, Castoriadis points to the fact that we have to think the division between the sciences – and also the proliferating internal divisions of each science – without succumbing to the temptation of conceptualising it in terms of a unity between one and many. On the one hand the various domains of being require the development of approaches that pay heed to the essential and unique character of each domain. On the other hand, they pose a challenge to our conception of knowledge and truth. Arguably, for Castoriadis this challenge takes the form of a concurrent openness towards developments within each scientific domain and the need to cross disciplinary boundaries. Thus, the idea of the regionality of being does not lead to a separatist or purist notion of science but it is rather used in order to underscore the need to see the sciences as instances for opening up the always renewable philosophical issues generated by scientific accounts especially in times of crisis18. It is certainly not accidental that two scientific domains, contemporary physics and psychoanalysis seem to challenge established ideas about being, making room again for the development of philosophical reflection.

  • 19 Castoriadis (C.), «Science moderne et interrogation philosophique», op. cit., p. 176.
  • 20 Feyerabend (P.), «Realism and the historicity of knowledge», op. cit., p. 404-405.
  • 21 Bhaskar (Roy), The Possibility of Naturalism, Routledge, London, 1979.
  • 22 Castoriadis (C.), «Science moderne et interrogation philosophique», op. cit., p. 169 ff.
  • 23 Castoriadis (C.), «La "fin de la philosophie"?», in Le monde morcelé. Les Carrefours du Labyrinthe (...)
  • 24 Castoriadis (C.), «Logic, imagination, reflection», op. cit., p. 228.
  • 25 Castoriadis (C.), «Logic, imagination, reflection», op. cit., p. 271.
  • 26 Castoriadis (C.), «La " fin de la philosophie"?», op. cit., p. 300-301.
  • 27 Castoriadis (C.), «Science moderne et interrogation philosophique», op. cit., p. 153.

13The fact that Castoriadis boldly calls ‘positive knowing’ an illusion19 should not be misinterpreted as a rejection of scientific truth, although it certainly promotes an idea of scientific change that bears some similarities with so-called ‘relativist’ approaches and especially with Kuhn’s idea of scientific revolutions as shifts of scientific paradigms. On a fundamental level, Castoriadis’ claim shows an awareness concerning the peculiar state of affairs characterising scientific knowing, which always entails the difference between the so-called “discovery” of ‘facts’ or ‘entities’ and the creation of scientific discourses, i.e. the creation of the semantic conditions that make these discoveries possible20. In light of this difficulty it should be hardly surprising that even ‘realist’ epistemological positions, like Bhaskar’s ‘critical realism’, were forced in the last decades to accept the existence of a certain interpretative – and thus also historical-dimensions in theory construction despite retaining the belief in the existence of a deep structural level of being that stands for ‘reality’21. Arguably, from the perspective Castoriadis develops in his works, positivism and relativism in their various guises would be inadequate ways to understand scientific truth and – more importantly – the wider processes of knowing and especially the development of philosophical thought. It seems as if Castoriadis wishes to account for the historicity of ‘truth’22, while securing an autonomous status for philosophy over science via a conception of knowing that is irreducible to its scientific manifestations. Philosophical knowing is thus conceived as always retaining or conserving the particulars of its creation as an essentially non-cumulative knowing process23, a claim that shatters the main ideal of positivist philosophy of science. Scientific knowing is understood in this context as absorbing or sublating the earlier stages of the process of its production, as one hardly needs to know the details of the history of a specific branch of science in order to understand current theories in the discipline. Castoriadis’ claim that – appearances to the contrary – the human or social sciences were never able to fully sever their bonds with philosophy24 might introduce a difference in degree regarding this last point. In other words it is possible that because of the nature of their subject-matter, the social sciences are less effective than the natural sciences in sublating the stages of their development. In any case, the historicity of knowing should be more evident in the case of philosophy than in science, while philosophical reflection is given the additional task of breaking the always pre-established closure25. This hardly means of course that the history of science should be seen as irrelevant from either a scientific or a philosophical perspective. Indeed, the very history of science presents us with instances of momentous paradigmatic shifts, which have to be explained in Castoriadis’ view taking into account at the same time the internal dynamics of scientific processes, the opening up of new dimensions of being(s) and the fact that while the modes/figures of the thinkable always shape scientific understanding they also somehow correspond to – or comply with – given dimensions of being(s)26. The history of modern physics and especially the problems posed from the attempts at a synthesis of quantum physics with relativity theory provides Castoriadis with a good example of the complex knowing processes described above and of a potential breach to the identitary conception of science, which however remains largely unacknowledged in the social sciences while it has hardly damaged the essentially positivist idea of science shared by the wider public. The fact that Castoriadis explicitly sees φάτις, the human being’s capacity for having a language, as the prerequisite for the development of every other language, natural, scientific, philosophical, even of so-called meta-languages27 does not lead him to the endorsement of the ‘anything goes’ thesis in relation to the validity of claims to truth. It only permits him to draw a more complex picture of the knowing process, whereby a degree of autonomous development is attributed to the various branches of knowing while acknowledging imaginary significations as the primal source of the very ability to think and create meaning. Castoriadis develops a sociogenetic or koinogenetic (a term stemming from the word koinos, indicating the common, the shared) approach to knowledge construction, as he maintains that even the act of perception is always mediated by language, a position that enables him to link every knowing act with its social-historical environment.

  • 28 Habermas (J.), The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, transl. by Frederick Lawrence, Polity Pre (...)
  • 29 Weber (M.), «Science as Vocation», in H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills (eds), From Max Weber: Essay (...)

14Viewed from this perspective Habermas seems quite unjustified in claiming that Castoriadis’ conception of language fails to distinguish between meaning and validity and that “intramundane praxis can gain no independence in relation to the power of this imaginary magma of meaning” and that consequently Castoriadis is unable to account for inter-subjective praxis28. Indeed, the distinction between meaning and validity is irrelevant – or has no sense – on the primal level of signification but this hardly means that logic and reason become irrelevant in Castoriadis’ approach as Habermas seems to maintain. At best Habermas’ point can be seen as an acknowledgment of Castoriadis’ awareness that there is no universal criterion underlying the endorsement of ultimate values (like autonomy), that these values spring at the first instance qua primary imaginary significations and that they are pivotal to the very act of social-historical creation. Here Castoriadis gives a new interpretative twist to Weber’s claim that it is impossible to place all ultimate values under the sober grounding of logic29. To be sure, Castoriadis complements and extends further Weber’s insight as he provides us also with an ontological explanation for this state-of-affairs.

  • 30 Freud (S.), «The future of an illusion», in The Penguin Freud Library, Vol. 12: Civilization, Soci (...)
  • 31 Castoriadis (C.), The Imaginary Institution of Society, op. cit., p. 111-112; Mouzakitis (A.), Mea (...)

15It also looks undeniable that Castoriadis’ treatment of the knowing processes entails the generation of some aporias, mostly related to the fact that while advancing a non-identitary understanding of science he never abandons certain dichotomies created in the context of inherited philosophy. Thus, truth and falsity are notions that still have an essential meaning in Castoriadis’ approach, while in his writings there is always room for the identification of ideology. Indeed, Castoriadis’ treatment of ideology seems to owe much both to Marx and Freud, despite the fact the Castoriadis rejects the view of ideology as pertaining to a ‘superstructure’ as well as its identification primarily with interest-bound social groups. Castoriadis rather conceptualises ideology as ‘distorted’ or illusory consciousness operating widely both on the societal and individual levels and being rooted deeply in the unconscious. Moreover, certain aspects of ideology are also seen – and this is an explicit Freudian streak in the theory30 – as resulting from human fear towards death or from the need to conceal the abyss surrounding human life31. Now, although in the context of Marx’s philosophy – and also of Marxism by and large – it is conceivable to define ideology in antithetical terms with science and on a complementary level with the envisaged overcoming of class divisions, the status of ideology in Castoriadis’ treatment is less obvious. Of course, the unmasking of ideology is primarily addressed as a consequence of humanity’s emancipation, its attempt to establish its autonomy in the acknowledgment of itself qua creator of its historical being. However, the epistemological status of ideology remains rather unclear given that ‘reason’ and ‘science’ are no longer considered as ultimate or unequivocal anthropological givens.

Conclusion

  • 32 Castoriadis (C.), The Imaginary institution of society, op. cit., p. 341.

16In light of the discussion conducted above some final remarks should be in place. First, it should be observed that the postulated mode of being of the unconscious and consequently also of the imaginary significations poses two important problems. The first concerns the ways in which the different modes of being are linked with one another and raises the issue whether the identitary dimension is the main – or indeed the only – point of convergence between them. Secondly, and given that the identitary dimension is a prevalent feature of every language, the question arises about the status of discourses that attempt to thematize the unconscious or the ‘magmatic’. In this respect, Castoriadis’ claim that a full elucidation of the unconscious is impossible points exactly to this residual state of non-identitary dimensions of being. At the same time it envisages an incessant process of making explicit elements that resist traditional approaches to knowledge. However, as already mentioned above the disclosure of new regions of being should have an essential effect on the development of scientific discourses, which should also place a challenge on their identitary aspects. It is no accident that Castoriadis clearly states that the development of non-identitary logic(s) would necessarily entail the employment of identitary logic and that conversely the clarification of the identitary regions of being involves the non-identitary32.

  • 33 Castoriadis (C.), «Logic, imagination, reflection», op. cit., p. 260.

17It should also be recalled that despite the autonomy he attributes to imagination Castoriadis acknowledges a kind of ‘logic’ even in the domain proper of imagination, viz. the dream. It is certainly not accidental that he also attributes to these ‘ensemblistic-identitary’ or ‘logical’ elements already present in the dream the very possibility of the dream’s interpretation33. Therefore, the identitary and the imaginary/magmatic dimensions of being can be at the same time antithetical and complementary, as indicated in the recorded cases of scientists who found the solutions to scientific problems in their dreams.

  • 34 Castoriadis (C.), «La "fin de la philosophie"?», op. cit., p. 304.
  • 35 Castoriadis (C.), «La "fin de la philosophie"?», op. cit., p. 291.

18In addition to this, and to the extent that Castoriadis conceived of truth as part of the wider social-historical context that makes it possible in the first place34, it seems legitimate to address the problem of truth as correlative to that of social-historical autonomy. Although truth and autonomy are not identical notions and they point to distinct societal-historical processes, one cannot fail to acknowledge a certain convergence between them in Castoriadis’ account. As mentioned in passing above this convergence becomes more evident once we consider the issue of ideology, at least in its guise as self-concealment of the instituting power inherent in the social-historical. In a very specific sense then a given social-historical formation finds itself in the ‘untruth’ insofar as it is not explicitly aware of its own fundamental qualities, i.e. its creative power and the autonomy and responsibility ensuing from this. It is therefore questionable to what extent scientific – and primarily philosophical – ‘truth’ could be envisaged as possible in a heteronomous social context, although I think that for Castoriadis it would be unthinkable as an original feature of such a historical formation. This of course hardly precludes the use of scientific reason in the context of a heteronomous society and for purposes that run counter to the very ideal of autonomy. In any case we have to be once again very careful not to oversimplify things, as Castoriadis paints a complex picture of human affairs where the struggle between autonomous and heteronomous elements, and arguably between ‘truth’ and ‘untruth’ is never settled once and for all, but is one of the most important driving forces – if not the most important driving force – of history. If philosophy’s task is to incessantly re-introduce that which is worth thinking about35 in a certain historical era, then one of the most urgent philosophical tasks ensuing from Castoriadis’ legacy concerns the need to critically engage with the problem of ‘truth’, which is ultimately linked with the wider problem of humanity. Once again, we are called to create new answers to old riddles, to come up with new interpretations of the enigma posed by our very humanity.

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Mouzakitis (A.), Meaning, Historicity and the Social: A Critical Approach to the Works of Heidegger, Gadamer, and Castoriadis. VDM Verlag Dr. Mueller, Saarbrücken, 2008, 182 p.

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Notes

1 Adams (S.), Castoriadis and the Circle of Physis and Nomos: A Critical Interpretation of his Philosophical Trajectory, PhD Thesis, La Trobe University, Victoria, Australia, 2006, p. 80.

2 Castoriadis (C.), «Le délabrement de l’Occident», in Les carrefours du labyrinthe IV. La montée de l’insignifiance, Seuil, Paris, 1996, p. 72-73.

3 Castoriadis (C.), «Logic, imagination, reflection», in World in Fragments, ed. and transl. by David Ames Curtis, Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, 1997, p. 262-263.

4 Luhmann (N.), Social Systems, transl. by John Bednarz, Jr. and Dirk Baecker. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, 1995, p. 6-9.

5 Adams (S.), «Castoriadis and autopoiesis», in Thesis Eleven, Vol. 76, No. 88, 2007, p. 77-78.

6 Castoriadis (C.), The Imaginary Institution of Society, transl. by Kathleen Blamey, Polity Press, Cambridge, UK, 1987, p. 117, 127 ff.

7 Castoriadis (C.), Φιλοσοφία και Επιστήμη: Ένας διάλογος με τον Γεώργιο Λ. Ευαγγελόπουλο, Ευρασία, Αθήνα, 2004, p. 85.

8 Castoriadis (C.), «Logic, imagination, reflection», op. cit., p. 264, 267, 269.

9 Zahavi (D.), Husserl’s Phenomenology, Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, 2003, p. 51.

10 Husserl (E.), «Philosophy and the crisis of European man», in Phenomenology and the Crisis of Philosophy, transl. by Quentin Lauer, Harper and Raw, New York, 1965, p. 191-192.

11 Berger (P.) and Luckmann (Th.), The Social Construction of Reality. A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge, Penguin Books, London, 1967.

12 Fuller (S.), «Social Epistemology: A philosophy for sociology or a sociology for philosophy?», in Sociology, Vol. 34, No. 3, 2000, p. 573.

13 Hodgson (B.), «Logical Positivism and the Vienna Circle», in The Edinburgh Companion to Twentieth Century Philosophies, ed. by Constantin V. Boundas, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 2007, p. 97-98.

14 Castoriadis (C.), The Imaginary Institution of Society, op. cit., p. 332.

15 Castoriadis (C.), «Science moderne et interrogation philosophique», in Les Carrefours du Labyrinthe, Éditions du Seuil, Paris, 1978, p. 214.

16 Feyerabend (P.), «Realism and the historicity of knowledge», in The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 86, No. 8, Aug. 1989, p. 402.

17 Frisby (D.), «Introduction to English translation», in The Positivist Dispute in German Sociology, ed. By Theodor W. Adorno, Heinemann Educational Books, London, p. x.

18 Castoriadis (C.), «Logic, imagination, reflection», op. cit., 1997, p. 217.

19 Castoriadis (C.), «Science moderne et interrogation philosophique», op. cit., p. 176.

20 Feyerabend (P.), «Realism and the historicity of knowledge», op. cit., p. 404-405.

21 Bhaskar (Roy), The Possibility of Naturalism, Routledge, London, 1979.

22 Castoriadis (C.), «Science moderne et interrogation philosophique», op. cit., p. 169 ff.

23 Castoriadis (C.), «La "fin de la philosophie"?», in Le monde morcelé. Les Carrefours du Labyrinthe III, Éditions du Seuil, Paris, 1990, p. 288.

24 Castoriadis (C.), «Logic, imagination, reflection», op. cit., p. 228.

25 Castoriadis (C.), «Logic, imagination, reflection», op. cit., p. 271.

26 Castoriadis (C.), «La " fin de la philosophie"?», op. cit., p. 300-301.

27 Castoriadis (C.), «Science moderne et interrogation philosophique», op. cit., p. 153.

28 Habermas (J.), The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, transl. by Frederick Lawrence, Polity Press, Cambridge, p. 330-331.

29 Weber (M.), «Science as Vocation», in H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills (eds), From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, Routledge, London, 1991, p. 142-143.

30 Freud (S.), «The future of an illusion», in The Penguin Freud Library, Vol. 12: Civilization, Society and Religion, Penguin Books, London, 1985, p. 197 ff.

31 Castoriadis (C.), The Imaginary Institution of Society, op. cit., p. 111-112; Mouzakitis (A.), Meaning, Historicity and the Social: A critical Approach to the Works of Heidegger, Gadamer, and Castoriadis. VDM Verlag Dr. Mueller, Saarbrücken, 2008, p. 63-65.

32 Castoriadis (C.), The Imaginary institution of society, op. cit., p. 341.

33 Castoriadis (C.), «Logic, imagination, reflection», op. cit., p. 260.

34 Castoriadis (C.), «La "fin de la philosophie"?», op. cit., p. 304.

35 Castoriadis (C.), «La "fin de la philosophie"?», op. cit., p. 291.

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University of Patras, Greece

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