Sunday, December 8, 2013

Interest and the Object in General

I have recently been employing a discourse which feels well suited to discussing ethics.  This discourse is centered around the term 'interest' which will need to be clarified on its own.  I will focus on articulating 'interest' by developing it in relation to a specific context which is timely for me and will also form a cornerstone in the discourse: the encounter with the object in general (of Kantian fame).
A formula of 'interest': a thing is of interest if it is available for thought.  In this formula, thing is taken to be anything that could be an object of thought, and thought is considered in its role as placing (determining) objects under concepts.  In this formula any thing we are thinking of is interesting to us, but additionally, it suggests that there is a way we can be 'signaled' by a thing while not thinking it (not determining it under a concept).  I will be focusing now on this particular case of interest. 
To be available for thought must mean that something is taken to be an object in some sense.  The minimal way of being an object, and yet unthought (undetermined), is for it to be an object in general.  I am suggesting that an object in general must be able to present itself singularly in a way that is still undetermined by an empirical concept (at least momentarily); moreover, if such a 'description' of an object is not maintained, then we find no material with which to begin developing our empirical concepts.
In relation to an object in general, 'description' must remain in quotes because we can surely not describe such an object in general until we have determined it under some concept, which is to say, when we think of it less generally.  Therefore, when we remember this state we will not be remembering something about the object so far as it was an object in general; instead, it is something about ourselves, or the determinations we made as a result of the state we were in, that we will take interest in after the encounter.  The object in general never becomes an object of interest while remaining general, but our determinations of it, and our state in such an encounter, do.  Clearly, using object to refer to the object in general is problematic, and something we must consider later.
What is the state of the subject that becomes interesting?  Since this object in general is somehow to be thought, it could be the satisfaction of a certain kind suited to thinking. Given the previous paragraph which informed us that we strictly speaking cannot refer to the actual object in general, we can say that the object in general is nothing other than this satisfaction in us for thinking.
Because this encounter with satisfaction (object in general) must form the foundation for the cultivation of our concepts, and so of thought generally, we must see it as at the grounds of what we mean when we speak.  From this we must say that such an encounter is assumed in all discourse.  That is, so far as we relate to others, we demand that they have such encounters of satisfaction regarding appearances, and precisely in relation to the things we have now come to determine under concepts.
Further, the relation to others is only possible because there is this capacity to encounter the object in general supposed in common.  This encounter with the object in general is just the satisfaction that pushes us first into thinking and builds a bridge between the singular (representation) and the universal (concept), and which combine as the particular.  But these logical quantities only become necessary in discourse, and their named distinction emerge from an analysis of discourse.
Because we have no rule for describing the object in general it means we could not represent one to ourselves, and so we can only think it: it is a noumenon.  If such an object in general is assumed in discourse, then we find that the purely thinkable is already grounding discourse, and that the intelligible is also discovered through discourse.  This super sensible substructure is important for our ethical dealings.
(Some readers may have noticed a relationship this 'phenomenological description' of the object in general has with Kant's discussion of the judgment of taste.  This relationship is completely intended, as this post is meant secondarily as an introduction to Kant's manner discussing the beautiful while separating it from the term 'beauty' which seems to produce so much bias in the encounter of the third critique.  I have here provided an interpretation of Kant's object in general as being the satisfaction in relation to appearances which sets the stage for the determination under concepts.  This satisfaction then relates to the reproducibility, under rules, of something which of itself has no rules.  There is much to be gained in continuing this reorientation towards the object in general from possible in the third critique, and then carrying the interpretation through the rest of the system.)
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