Presuppositions, Presuppositionless, and Intersuppositions
Points of clarification
Philosophy is extremely interested in the possibility of “presuppositionless philosophy,” which is to say a philosophy that assumes absolutely nothing. Our presuppositions are our assumptions and starting axioms, and philosophy has a long history of believing that it had located a thought that didn’t require any assumptions, only to later realize there was an assumption secretly hidden in the premise(s) without realizing it. “I think, therefore I am” seems straightforward and free of assumption, and yet why am I so sure that “I think” versus “Thinking is occurring?” Am I justified to assume the existence of the “I,” or can I only say an act of thinking is occurring, and thus “thinking is?” But am I so sure thinking is occurring, or is it rather code and programing running through my brain from a great simulator? And so on — the point is that it’s remarkably difficult to avoid assumption.
David Hume argues it is impossible for philosophy to be its own grounding, which is to say that “autonomous rationality” is an impossible ideal that, in the act of trying to realize, causes great suffering and trouble. Samuel Barnes argues this case brilliantly in The Iconoclast, and I’m a huge fan of his work. Indeed, I do think a “presuppositionless philosophy” is impossible, which means entirely answering what Barnes calls “The Meta-Question” is impossible. However, the question that remains is if what cannot be known entirely is that which we cannot gain “reason to believe” we can know, at all.
This is where I suggest the possibility of “intersuppositional philosophy,” which thinks “between” I and world, I and other, I and animal — on and on. Why this is different from “presuppositional philosophy” is because it is based on experiences, encounters, witnesses, emergences, etc., which we don’t just think but also feel. An assumption is “brought into consideration,” while an intersuppositions “arise before consideration.” Presuppositions are according to what we consider, while intersuppositions arise before our consideration.
“Dialectical Ethics” and “The ‘Such/Lack Solution’ to the ‘Is/Ought Problem,’ ” both by O.G. Rose, explores how Hume does not try to deconstruct the possibility of ethics into mere sentiments, but rather argues that we determine “what we should do” based not on “is-ness” but on “such-ness,” which is to say based on the raw phenomenological encounter of us with things in the world. We encounter our neighbor, and in that encounter we develop emotional connections and also come to understand the particularities and nuances of their personality, which is to say we gain both relationally and in terms of knowledge. Hegel strongly opposes us generating moral theories from a distance about how “a thing is,” which then leads to us determining an “ought” that we impose. This ends up in totalitarianism, so in Hume arguing that we can only derive ethics from “such-ness” (which is to say particular encounter from an embedded life), Hume is working to limit and control power.
Is Hume deconstructing philosophy? No, Hume is claiming that philosophy should not be based on assumptions and presuppositions that it brings into situations, but rather should be “open” to immediacy. In a way, there is no pre-philosophy, only the philosophy of the “now.” We philosophize about what we encounter and are directly wrapped up in, or we should not philosophize. In a way, Hume is arguing that the philosopher without “skin in the game” or “relational stakes” will prove to hardly be a philosopher at all but more of a tyrant.
As discussed in “The Greatest Problem of Philosophy Is Philosophy,” Hume understood that philosophy could be unstoppable, unrestrainable, and self-consuming, which is to say it could be about anything and deconstruct anything. This is a remarkable power, almost god-like, and for Hume basically only philosophy can “check and balance” philosophy (as only God can hold back God). But why would philosophy restrain itself? Why would academics or rulers who benefit from philosophy want to limit it? Furthermore, if we don’t engage in philosophy, don’t we run the risk of being controlled by bad ideas, falling into closed-mindedness, “the banality of evil,” and worse? Indeed, we must employ philosophy, the very use of which can tempt us to use it favor of our deification. To not freeze to death, we must play with the fire that could burn everyone alive, and so in a world that treats philosophy as an elective which cannot move much beyond Neo-Pragmaticism.
We must theorize, and yet theory is dangerous: I agree with thinkers like Thomas Sowell and Paul Johnson who warn that intellectuals can destroy the world. David Hume would agree, but we also see that we indeed must philosophize; otherwise, we will be controlled. Theory is dangerous, but it is also dangerous to avoid theory.
At least following the Kant as interpreted by Hegel (which is who I am usually referring to when discussing him), Kant accepts Hume’s arguments but takes them in the wrong direction. Kant argues time and space as inherent categories of the mind, which means the brain translates everything around us into space and time so that we can make them intelligible. Rather we believe this or not, if the mind entails any innate categories or processing mechanisms (say regarding what kinds of colors we can experience, what we can feel, etc.), then this means we are calibrated to derive assumptions about the world according to these innate limitations. If our minds force us to experience the world according to spacetime, then we end up assuming that entities are like how they present themselves to us in spacetime, and we then carry this assumption into the world, which makes it difficult for things to “present themselves” as themselves to us (in a Heideggerian sense). And in fact, it’s a doomed effort to try to know and encounter things in experience, for we will never access “the thing-in-itself.” In this way, Kant accepts Hume precisely to worsen the problem Hume set out to solve. In Kant, what we can know is bound to what the mind can know, and that is relative to the preset and preexisting categories the mind brings into situations. Presuppositions are not only an avoidable and the business of philosophy but innate.
In my view, Kant basically doomed philosophy, for if we can never access “things-in-themselves” due to innate categories, then human perception is a problem, and we either end up in scientism where we emphasis the scientific method to escape human subjectivity, or we end up in radical relativism where the only subjective truth we can access is a matter of faith or opinion. Kant made the Modern and Post-Modern world, and though we have benefited scientifically and technologically, we have also suffered from taking this road. This isn’t to say nothing good has come from Kant, but it is to say that the world today might be a product of misunderstanding Hume (and ignoring Hegel’s Science of Logic).
Kant read Hume in favor of innate mental categories, which are “constant and absolute mental categories,” which is to say that Kant attempts to justify presuppositions as practically “absolute.” No, Kant doesn’t say all presuppositions are valid, but I fear Kant creates an impression that there is little need to “check and balance” our presuppositions, nor should philosophy be in the business of trying to think beyond them (however imperfectly). After all, we’re stuck in our heads and can never know “thing-in-themselves”: for the subject to fight presuppositions and categories is a losing battle. Far better would it prove for subjects to employ “the scientific method” so that they can gain tools like falsification by which to known and understand the world…
Hume worried about the power of philosophy, and Kant indeed stopped that power, but sadly he did it by transferring that power to faith and science (Quentin Meillassoux argues that Kant unleashed Fideism). Now, scientism feels unstoppable, unrestrained, and self-consuming, as does subjectivity belief (say in faith, conspiracies — what I call “Pandora’s Rationality”). Kant may have solved “the problem of philosophy,” but only by creating “the problem of science” and “the problem of faith,” per se, and at the same time Kant made us less able to defend ourselves from totalitarianism and more susceptible to “the banality of evil.” Our misreading of Hume has indeed been costly, but at the same time even Hume cannot give us everything, I fear…
Science matters, and in Kant perhaps helping us focus on science, he helped us make the modern world. Religion also has a role, especially considering what Dr. Vervaeke calls “The Meaning Crisis,” but religion also has a history of terror. Limits on both science and faith are needed, for the pathological results of overly-apply science and faith are emerging (say in “The Mental Health Crisis,” nihilism, etc.), which means we need to search for “ways of knowing” beyond them that are not relativistic and empty. This is where the need for “a return to philosophy” is so important, and going about this business is what we can accomplish by returning to Hume and Hegel.
Hume wanted to place philosophy in the business of understanding the “encounter” between us and the world (which is to say he wanted philosophy to be in the business of relations and relationships), because Hume understood how presuppositions and assumptions could be so dangerous and lead to oppression and totalitarianism. And yet we cannot escape presuppositions — what do we do? For Hume, this means we only use philosophy in service of “the common life” we are embedded in, intimately encounter, and live our lives experiencing. Yes, we will have presuppositions, but these presuppositions will be “bound” to that common life and thus much less likely to cause oppression and trouble.
We cannot avoid assumptions, but not all assumptions are equal, and assumptions which are deeply informed by phenomenology will be different in character from assumptions which are primarily informed by abstract reasoning. All “Presuppositional Thinking” also entails encounters, experiences, and intersuppositions, but the categories themselves of the thinking will be primarily derived from abstract reasoning. All “Intersuppositional Thinking” also entail abstract notions, ideas, and presuppositions, but the character itself of the thinking will be primarily derived from phenomenological encounter.
The moment we discuss phenomenology, we are discussing a “between space,” say between me and others, me and the world, and so on. In Hegel, we find the radical move of examining the “between space” between me as a perceiving subject and my ideas, which is very strange, and yet exploring this space is very fruitful. I don’t merely accept or absorb my ideas and how they present themselves to me, but rather “follow the unfolding” of my ideas so that I might “reason” about them (versus automatically fall into “understanding” things through them). Anyway, more must be said on that, but the point is that phenomenology is automatically “between,” which means it encourages us to give “ontological weight” to the world outside of myself or the “otherness” within myself (Hegel’s “phenomenology of ideas,” per se).
Today, phenomenology has mostly been replaced by empiricism (see “Phenomenological Pragmaticism” for more), which is not the same, and I don’t think it’s by chance that “The Simulation Hypothesis” (which is the idea that we’re all in a simulation) is so popular in “tech spaces.” For me, this is evidence that empiricism (and rationalism) lack resources to make the external world really there to us, as a distinct ontology and being which is not reducible to us and our “technological thinking.” Phenomenology helps the world be “alien” and “other,” which then begs the question of if we can take seriously that “otherness” in our thinking and even identify with it. This is “becoming-other” in Hegel, which suggests “The Absolute Choice.”
(Wait, if everything is a simulation, doesn’t that mean everything is “alien?” No, I don’t believe so, for we know what simulations are, and they exist thanks to us inventing computers. There is hence a kind of comfort in believing “everything is a simulation,” for then it suggests we are trapped in something that humans are ultimately responsible for — we’re still the gods. Doomed perhaps, but gods.)
Phenomenology and “The Simulation Hypothesis” can be thought together, sure, but I don’t think well, and certainly the world loses its power to “strike us” if it is a simulation. Everyone gains a feeling of being an illusion and less “there,” and it’s already hard enough to take seriously “otherness” — believe it’s a simulation will only hurt our motivation to try (and creates a kind of “reality solipsism,” where the only reality is inside the simulation, locked away from us). “The Simulation Hypothesis” also feels very Kantian, for we are stuck unable to access “the reality-in-itself,” and this means the hypothesis is weak to correct the overreaches of Scientism and Fideism. It is certainly possible that we are in a simulation, but I see little value in considering this possibility. Furthermore, I don’t see why Hegel’s critiques of Kant would not apply just as well to “The Simulation Hypothesis,” as discussed in “Absolute Knowing” by O.G. Rose — the problems Kant left us with only take a new form.
Fideism links with “dualism” and “relativism.”
Empiricism links with “simulation” and “noncontingency.”
Phenomenology links with “otherness” and “Conditionalism.”
“Intersuppositional Thinking” is profoundly phenomenological, while the philosophy Hume critiques, which is “Presuppositional Thinking,” is almost anti-phenomenological. To think intersuppositionally is to always think according to notions and categories (as we must, being finite) that instantly deconstruct themselves if the phenomenon doesn’t fit into them, while Presuppositional Thinking will discount the ways the phenomenon doesn’t fit into categories, for mental categories (or doctrines of faith) are more ontologically substantive than phenomena (following Kant). If the world doesn’t fit the theory or faith, the world needs to get its act together.
A hope of scientific empiricism is to avoid the tendency to make the world fit our theories, and it certainly seems more able to avoid this mistake than many religions, but science is not infallible, precisely because not everything humans must live with his reducible to facts. We may want to believe all of reality can be translated into terms of facts, because then we could solve our severe existential problems and social discounts (like finding a “universal language” or “universal logic,” as was a hope of Analytical Philosophy), but this is not the case, for not everything in the universe which is true is falsifiable (as Karl Popper himself acknowledged). This is a large claim, and it must be justified in The True Isn’t the Rational trilogy; in this work, I would ask that you grant me the claim that not everything in the universe can be understood “factually,” because not everything in the universe can be understood through the methods according to which we define “facts” as facts.
Empiricism and science can help us avoid the temptations of theories which ignore actuality, but science and empiricism can reach too far and try to deconstruct all theories which don’t match its criteria, including the theories by which we understand ourselves as subjects. Psychoanalysis is not a “hard science,” and yet I would argue that the work of Freud and Lacan is valuable. Unfortunately, it is natural for “hard science” to reach over and discount the work of Freud and Lacan as “pseudoscience” and irrelevant, setting us up to lack the resources we need to avoid “The Mental Health Crisis” we’ve now found ourselves in. Science also tends to discount theology as a waste of time, and yet academic theology can help bind the extremism of religions and help societies from suffering dangerous fundamentalism. Science might shrug and say that problem can be dealt with by simply removing religion, and though that is theoretically true, practically science has never been able to accomplish this goal. As of 2023, it seems like there is still a major demand for a return to religion, and though perhaps not the same as the religion of the last century, it still suggests a weakening of science’s grip. As far as I can tell, the evidence shows that science will never destroy religion. If religion dies, it will be due to an unimagine trauma which collectively obliterates our “cognitive mapping,” say a UFO invasion or something just as unimaginable.
There is something very intersuppositional about science, empiricism, and observation, but the “Intersuppositional Thinking” discussed here is more phenomenological and philosophical. It is like empiricism, but it is also not equivalent (hence why Hume is easily seen as an Empiricist): phenomenology tries to occupy “a space between” abstraction and concretion. It is fundamentally dialectical, which means it is unstable and hard to define. Empiricism is easier to define, as is Fideism, but phenomenology always feels elusive, just like metaphysics. This is because the fields are dialectical and tense: we “glimpse” them a moment before they are gone again.
I am not ready to say “everything intersuppositional is phenomenological,” but I do believe that everything intersuppositional can be phenomenologically witnessed. In fact, an abstraction or presupposition is precisely what can be arrived at through rationality and thinking, without any external observation (we could be blind, defeat, etc., basically), while what is intersuppositional is such precisely because it requires looking outside our own minds. Yes, empiricism has us look beyond ourselves as well, but what we look for and focus on is very different between empiricism and phenomenology. In empiricism, we look outside our heads to determine reality without subjects, while in phenomenology we look outside our heads to determine reality with us.
What is it that can “arise” and “unfold” in the world that wouldn’t occur if we as subjects didn’t exist? What happens in “the space between” us and other-ness that wouldn’t emerge if subjectivity never appeared in the universe? Phenomenology explores these topics, and certainly empiricism can help aid phenomenology, but unfortunately it seems very hard for empiricism not to replace phenomenology (as is natural regarding parts of a dialectic: the parts naturally over-reach). While empiricism studies the world to find the “unconditional” categories, definitions, and understandings that we can always carry around with us (Presuppositional Thinking), phenomenology studies the world precisely to watch the “unfolding” and manifestation of “contingency” and “conditionality,” in hopes of reasoning well about the world, us, and us-in-the-world.
Even if correctable, categories don’t change, but the world can always “unfold” differently and anew. Phenomenology derives conclusions “in” the experience of the “unfolding,” while categorization derives conclusions from the competition of the manifestation. Phenomenology occurs during “unfolding,” while empiricism occurs more so after manifestation. Phenomenology is interested in “what thought and the world must be like” for us to experience a baby crab hatching from an egg, while empiricism is interested in “what hatches from the egg.” Now, again, it’s good to know “what hatches from the egg,” and it can be foolish to only ask questions about the movement of thought itself (which almost treats the egg as “a means to an end”). In Hegel, we need both “reason” and “understanding,” as we need both phenomenology and empiricism — the problem is that it’s very difficult for us to not become “a pure phenomenologist” (“autonomous nonrationality”) or “a pure empiricist” (“autonomous rationality”). The challenge and need is “the both-ness.”
The brilliance of Hegel is the realization that “the space between” in which phenomenology can occur is not only something to be observed, but that this space itself is relative to which human subjects and the world are profoundly shaped and transformed. It is arguably more influential on humanity than “presuppositional spaces,” though the intersuppositional so quickly translates into the presuppositional that it seems like the presuppositional is all that is ever at play. In other words, it is the “space between” Consciousness and Self-Consciousness where Consciousness fails that forces humanity to sublate into Self-Consciousness, as it is the failure of Self-Consciousness that leads into Reason, and so on. Now, we still have to choose to “identify with” these failures and sublations, but the point is that their occurrence is what makes humanity what it “is” (for now). It is not the thinking and “presuppositions” gained from within a stage of “The Phenomenology Journey” that primarily defines us, but the way humanity changes when a stage proves “incomplete.”
Hume thought similarly, believing that philosophy needed to be profoundly in the business of acknowledging and thinking according to the places where “the idea of x” proved distinct from and inadequate for “x.” We cannot understand billiard balls according to Natural Laws, so what exactly are we doing and understanding when we think about billiard balls? This is the kind of question on which Hume wanted us to focus, and yet our “frenemy brains” do not like this line of inquiry: it wants more certainty and control, a feeling of which “rigid categories” can provide (much to our detriment). Our brains do not like dialectics; tension uses energy.
As discussed in “ ‘Hegelian Dialectics’ Are Not ‘Discussion Dialectics’ ” by O.G. Rose, a dialectic is fundamentally intersuppositional, for it suggests that entities which are distinct (and thus have a “space between them”) are nevertheless linked (or should be to us). Dialectics are not primarily presuppositional, even if they generate notions which lead to presuppositions. If Hegel’s dialectic lead to a “synthesis,” then it would be fair to say that dialectics ultimately lead to “a better presupposition” or “a better ground of thinking,” but since dialectics in Hegel don’t lead to “a final resting place,” but instead are a constant generative tension, we can understand why dialectics are primarily intersuppositional. Hegel’s dialectic describes how things are, which means things entail in themselves “intersuppositional space” that we must think and take seriously. I for example consist of Daniel, my memories, and my body, and though all these things “are” me, they also aren’t reducible to one another, which means there is “intersuppositional space” between them (x/y versus x|y). To “phenomenologically witness” how my memories interact with my identity, which influences how my body acts and functions, is to position myself to arrive at “intersuppositions” which can then be translated into and understood presuppositionally, but the origin and source is important to note.
If we take the famous triad of abstraction, negation, and concrete, we can see “between” each of these an “intersuppositional space.” Abstractions don’t have to be negated, as negations don’t have to lead to concretion, and in this way we can say that Hegel is not primarily interested in the mere acts of abstracting, negating, and making something concrete; rather, Hegel is interested in the movement from and between abstraction, negation, and concretion. If we just focus on abstraction and stay in abstraction, we will not be thinking Hegel; the movement is paramount, and that movement means we are dealing with “intersuppositional space.” The moment we stop, we have stopped being Hegelian; we are like a shark that stops swimming and thus drowns (as discussed in “The Net (8)”).
Thought in Hegel which attempts to constantly “move” is reason, while thinking which “solidifies” into categories and presuppositions is “understanding,” and ultimately “pure reason” is impossible, while “pure understanding” is deeply problematic. But the very reason a distinction and dialectic between “reason” and “understanding” is possible in Hegel is precisely because of “intersuppositional space” — if this space didn’t exist, the terms would “practically” be similes. Likewise, without the intersuppositional, we could not discuss a meaningful distinction between “phenomenology” and “empiricism”: the two would be identical, which is to say phenomenology wouldn’t be irrelevant. Similarly, a philosophy which doesn’t take seriously time will not engage in intersuppositional thought: a philosophy which is overly-spatial will be overly-presuppositional.
And yet the moment we think about “reason” it can instantly be translated into “understanding”; when we think about phenomenology, it seems like empiricism; when we think about time, we understand it as objects moving through space. “Intersuppositional Thought” is gone just as soon as we consider it: it seems “glimpsed” and then like it was never there. Hegel and Hume are philosophers who demand our attention. As Flannery O’Connor encouraged of the writer, we must not be afraid to stare.
Why does Hegel end up intersuppositional? Was it planned from the start? A great question, and A reason Hegel heads in an “intersuppositional” direction, in my view (which makes fields like phenomenology central), is because Hegel runs into a problem. As Merold Westphal puts it, ‘[c]riticism calls for criteria [but] [h]ow can there be criticism without presuppositions?’¹ Hegel seeks to critique Kant, but how might this be possible without committing mistakes like Kant? Indeed, Hegel seems numerous “presuppositions” in Kant that Kant himself doesn’t recognize, such as:
‘1) the idea of knowledge as an instrument or medium,
2) the idea of the Absolute as something separated from us and our knowledge,
3) the idea that in addition to the absolute truth and knowledge there are lower kinds of knowledge which can be said to possess ‘truth of another kind,’ and
4) for employment in stating these three principles, a whole set of basic categories whose meaning is assumed to be familiar to everyone, such as absolute, knowledge, objective, subjective, etc.’²
‘Hegel finds a whole system of presuppositions at the basis of critical finitism’ and doesn’t want to make a mistake like this himself, but how can anyone avoid it?³ Where can “presuppositionlessness” be found? For Hegel, ‘[t]he answer is found by attending carefully to the object of our investigation — consciousness. As it turns out, ‘consciousness provides itself with its own criterion, and the investigation will be a comparison of a consciousness with its own self,’ ’ which is to investigate if it ‘satisfies its own demands.’⁴ But how might that be possible? Can consciousness consider itself? Not by itself to itself (without falling into self-effacing A/A), but it can consider itself with “other-ness,” which is to say consciousness can experience a cup and realize itself as “an entity which can experience color” (as elaborated on in “Absolute Knowing” by O.G. Rose). And so we have entered into the realm of “the intersuppositional,” as Hegel has been so driven in his effort to critique philosophical movements which he believes will kill philosophy.
Consciousness needs objects to understand itself, which means A/A-knowledge (consciousness to just consciousness) is impossible, meaning consciousness is fundamentally A/B, which means it is fundamentally “intersuppositional” (in being “dialectical”). Consciousness cannot learn of itself as “a thing capable of experiencing color” if consciousness just has consciousness to observe, for consciousness isn’t reducible to materiality. Perhaps consciousness can somehow exist without materiality, but consciousness cannot “experience itself as a thing which can experience materiality” (thus gaining self-understanding) without A/B, and so its self-identification and self-understanding requires “otherness.” Perhaps it would still be something which “could experience materiality” without materiality, but this possibility would be “meaningless” and thus not something which could be “meaningfully” incorporated into self-understanding. For consciousness to “meaningfully” understand itself, it requires “otherness,” and that means “meaningful” self-understanding is necessarily “intersuppositional.” And in this notion Hegel can avoid presuppositions.
As discussed at the start of Saving the Appearances by Owen Barfield, rainbows exist because there are eyeballs, and yet rainbows are not hallucinations or “merely subjective” — they are there and something many people can experience, even if that “collective representation” requires certain conditions to be met to be possible. The rainbow is “there” and yet not in a “nonconditional way,” but in a way that requires a lot of “between space” (between us and the rainbow, the sun and the rain, etc.). Without that “between space,” there would be no rainbow, and yet that space is not located in a single subject, meaning it cannot be reduced to “presuppositions.” Instead, the rainbow is “intersuppositional” and something “given to us” by the world in the world meeting the conditions needed for the rainbow to manifest (it arises like Being in a “clearing” for Heidegger). We are one of those conditions, which means we are not the whole cause of the rainbow. The rainbow is there and yet there because of us meeting the right condition (the rainbow is perhaps a promise that we are safe to discount “the subject-object divide”).
What is there in the world is partly thanks to us, but not just our “innate mental categories,” but because we are a condition in the world. We do not filter; we condition and create. No, Kant was not wrong to see thinking as somehow “limiting” the world (for “the thought of a cat” is not the same as “the thing of a cat”), but it is not the case that humans only think: we also condition. I can turn off my mind and just perceive (as discussed in (Re)constructing “A Is A”), and yet the rainbow doesn’t vanish. Furthermore, a moment of limitation in thought can lead to transformation in the world: to think about a cat (limited) can lead to me taking the cat to a friend’s house (thus creating a new condition) — it is not the case that I must always be limited just because I must be limited some, as it is not the case that a limitation cannot lead to something new. The world is the way it is to us not because it is just filtered through our “innate mental categories,” but because we are a condition in the world which changes and influences what the world “manifests.” If humans didn’t exist, there would be no music.
Owen Barfield is a great mind that deserves more attention, as hopefully we will adequately give him in The Absolute Choice. Here, we will note that a key “intersuppositional conclusion” Hegel reaches is ‘the unity of thought and being [as] developed in the Phenomenology’ (which ‘Hegel’s ontologically grounded [Science of Logic] will presuppose’) (this might be the unity of Nature and Notion, do note).⁵ The realization of this unity is “Absolute Knowing,” which is required for us to then do the work of creating a new logic that assumes this unity (A/B), whereas classically thought and being were distinct (A/A) even if “corresponding.” It’s a fine distinction, but Hegel sees thought and being as operating in a creative “feedback loop,” as perhaps possible because of their isomorphic structures, but this is difference from believing thought just “represents” being (A/A). With this shift, everything changes.
Given the necessity of A/A-thinking failing, “the (in)completeness of the subject,” and essential “otherness” (A/B), a main “intersuppositional reality” Hegel considers is “lack.” I was tempted to move “The ‘Such/Lack’ Solution to the Is/Ought Problem” into The Absolute Choice, but I decided to keep it in (Re)constructing “A Is A,” seeing as the paper would require me to elaborate on the entire topic of “lack,” which though relevant to Hegel, risks consuming the entire book. Indeed, ultimately The True Isn’t the Rational might just be one long conversation about Hegel indirectly, but I hope it at least adds an angle missing from The Absolute Choice. Hard to say.
Anyway, the point is that “lacks” are intersuppositional, for they only arise between subjects and the world in a “present absence.” “Lacks” must be phenomenological, and hence we cannot experience them to reason about them until they manifest to us, versus us go and find them according to presuppositions and preexisting axioms. Yes, upon experience, we can then immediately create assumptions about them, but this experience is not reducible to empirical encounter: the experience itself is part of the world because subjects in the world experience it; the universe is not merely the world to the world. “Lacks” are evidence that subjects are present, considering what’s missing.
A Philosophy of Glimpses centers on “the phenomenology of lack,” and ultimately an interpretation of “Absolute Knowing” is the recognition of “lack” as fundamental to the human subject. This interpretation is Žižekian and disputed, yes, but it suggests that “Absolute Knowing” entails a recognition of fundamental “intersuppositions,” which means “The Absolute” is something we never arrive at but only can “witness” in “between spaces.” It can be witnessed though (we are not stuck in mere phenomena, as we are in Kant), just not ultimately captured, which means we are dealing with something Unknown but not Unknowable. This is Hegel’s argument, and it declares the reality of the intersuppositional, the “/” over “and,” an ontology and metaphysics where things are irreducible to one another and yet forever linked (like “The Trinity”).
“Lacks” or “present absences” must be intersuppositional, and if “lacks” are fundamental to Hegel’s thought, then so are intersuppositions. When I want a sandwich and I don’t have access to one, the sandwich is not “nothing,” but a “present absence”: it defines and orientates me even though it is nowhere to be seen. I cannot access the minds of other people, but this means other minds are “lacking” to me, for I certainly wish to access them, and following Hegel “others” are fundamental to my development. What Hegel calls “becoming” is lacking of “pure being,” which is precisely why “becoming” functions to sublate “being/nothing” into itself (the “lack” is what propels the movement). If x and y dialectically relate, then x “lacks” y while y “lacks” x, and this lack is what drives x to “become” y while y is driven to “become” x, and yet never do the two synthesize and become wholly one. Since this “becoming” is generative, this means the creativity and “becoming” never has to end or exhaust its possibility. There is always more which could be generated; there is always a “lack” from which more could emerge.
“Lacks” must be intersuppositional, for what is “me” isn’t lacking but present. I cannot entail a “present absence,” only something that I might not recall like a forgotten memory. No, I cannot see my lungs, but my lungs are not therefore “lacking” just invisible. “Lacks” are not part of my presence, and so “lacks” must exist in a space outside of “me.” Yes, how I define “me” is not necessarily all of me, and so I can entail “alienness” and “otherness,” but this “rest of me” is still “outside of me” (as I understand myself), and hence is intersuppositional. It exists between “me” and “all of me,” and it is precisely what can motivate me to “become” more of me — or what can give me a way to avoid myself.
“Presuppositional Thinking” approaches the world in the image and likeness of ideas, while “Intersuppositional Thinking” approaches the world as its own “other” which ideas are to dance with, create according to, and honor. Nothing is brought before us that is unexpected and surprising that doesn’t arise between us and something else, for anything we bring to ourselves will be fit into our preexisting structures and thinking. We cannot surprise ourselves, as we cannot tickle ourselves, which means that we ourselves cannot be primarily in any effort to move beyond “Presuppositional Thinking” toward the intersuppositional. “Tickling” is intersuppositional (and perhaps a critical example), for I can only experience tickling because there is a “space between” me and others (we are not the same being, seeing as I cannot tickle myself). Likewise, I can only “glimpse” that which cannot be reduced to my assumptions and preexisting complexes, precisely because it arises when my categories, thinking, and the like fail. In “the strike of beauty,” my thinking is suspended; I am overtaken by an experience that changes my very “horizon” in the world. This thought cannot be reduced to my presuppositions, for it changes what I believe is possible in the world. And the fact this occurs means the world is a place where this can occur, and the fact also this occurrence is “from” the world and not my ideas onto the world is reason to believe it has something to do with “The Absolute.” It is not arbitrary. It is not mere subjectivity.
Now, as we bring this paper to a close, we must make something very clear: we should not assume “the intersuppositional” is necessarily good. What “emerges” and what we experience that is unexpected might be precisely what destroys us. Even if it is true that “the intersuppositional” might provide us resources for approaching “The Meta-Question” and philosophy free of presuppositions in new ways, we should not assume that we won’t encounter that which quickly makes us realize that we would have been better off to leave the intersuppositional alone. “The Real” Lacan discusses manifests intersuppositionally — we use the Symbolic and Imaginary masterfully to assure that we avoid it in ourselves — and “The Real” causes trauma. “Emergence” and “The Real” are encounters in the same “intersuppositional space,” and though there is something to be said about learning to handle more of “The Real” than less, the point is that we shouldn’t be quick to believe that what we encounter “intersuppositionally” will prove something we’re happy we encountered. It might destroy us.
If something arises which is irreducible to the world and doesn’t fit within our preexisting categories, this “something” could collapse our “conceptual mapping” (such as occurs in trauma), and this will be hard to recover from (assuming we ever do). Yes, it might be a Beatific Vision, but it also might be a creature from Lovecraft: we cannot know until “it” arises, at which point it will be too late to go back. Once the printing press is invented, the printing press is invented; once AI arrives, AI arrives. The intersuppositional is encountered, and that means it is known when it is here.
For Hegel, to be conditioned for emergences and the unexpected, we needed philosophy, and yet to Hegel’s horror he saw philosophy being destroyed by the legacy of Kant. Science and Fideism did not condition subjects like philosophy, but the motivation to engage in philosophy was removed by Kant’s work which seemed to suggest that philosophy could not access “The Absolute.” This is what Hegel worked against, which is to say Hegel worked so that the future might be something we could handle.
Are we ready for what might emerge? That really is the question, I think, for there will be emergences, and we will either be ready for them or not. Today, in Circling, Dialogos, Cyphering — we are coming to focus in on “the intersuppositional space” and trying to harness it, as if these new practices are new “psycho-technologies” or “subject-technologies” that we are trying to master. It’s almost like we have discovered alchemy and wondering what we might create with it. Indeed, what might we?
To bring this work to a close, Hume can solve the problems of Scientism, Fideism, “the banality of evil,” help us defend ourselves against totalitarianism, and even help us find direction and meaning. It addresses many of the “crises” which concern people today, and in my opinion any philosophy who does not “return to Hume” is doomed to fall into Kantianism (not to say there is no value in Kant, for Kant inspired Hegel). This isn’t to say that Hume is the only way to move beyond Kant (I have not read everything), but it is to say that what Hume “represents” is a necessary incorporation. We forsake Hume at our peril.
At the same time, as discussed in “From Hume to Hegel,” there are limits to Hume which forced me to consider Hegel, as there are limits to Hegel which necessitates an incorporation of Lacan (say what is mentioned by Žižek in the introduction of Less Than Nothing). This ultimately leads to what strikes me as a very important conversation between Hegel and Deleuze (one I find myself unable to stop grabbling with), but that is another topic for another time.
Hegel does not argue it is possible for us to live our lives engaging in “Presuppositionless Thinking” (which would be stuck in a dichotomy between “presupposition” and “presupposedness”): “reason” must always incorporate “understanding,” and we will think and live according to presuppositions. We must do this, and as long as we bind these to our “common life” (Hume), we can contain their danger and power. However, Hume has his own limits (which can lead us to Dugin), and hence why Hegel’s thinking on the possibility of “glimpses” and “glimmers” of “Intersuppositional Thinking” is so valuable and important. If the intersuppositional is possible, then the world must be a place where the intersuppositional can occur, and in these experiences “the world unveils itself to us” (Heidegger) more than we interpret the world according to our ideas. Why this matters is because it means we have “reason to believe” that “The Absolute” is not Unknowable but Unknown — and the implications of this might save philosophy. To explain this point though, we will have to turn to another paper: “Does Hegel Argue We Can Think Without Presuppositions and Axioms or That It Is Impossible?” And so to that question we will turn.
¹Westphal, Merold. History and Truth in Hegel’s Phenomenology. Atlantic Highlands, N.J. Humanities Press Inc., 1978: 15.
²Westphal, Merold. History and Truth in Hegel’s Phenomenology. Atlantic Highlands, N.J. Humanities Press Inc., 1978: 5.
³Westphal, Merold. History and Truth in Hegel’s Phenomenology. Atlantic Highlands, N.J. Humanities Press Inc., 1978: 5.
⁴Westphal, Merold. History and Truth in Hegel’s Phenomenology. Atlantic Highlands, N.J. Humanities Press Inc., 1978: 15.
⁵Westphal, Merold. History and Truth in Hegel’s Phenomenology. Atlantic Highlands, N.J. Humanities Press Inc., 1978: 224.
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