ISSA Proceedings 2014 – The Synthetic Function Of Doxastic Dialectics
Abstract: Regarding the synthetic function of doxastic dialectics, the present investigation will approach a single aspect: the metaphysical transubstantiation. We intend to explain, in personal terms, this idea which was introduced by P. Grice (1991) and to which we have briefly made reference several times. Grice’s idea supports our hermeneutic argument: the semantic nature of belief, crystallized by the dialectical mechanism of controversy, acquires persuasive prestige owing to a paradigmatic transfer: from a discursive paradigm to an axiological one. The demonstration will develop the thesis according to which belief has a self-referential dimension.
1. General remarks
1.1. Remarks regarding doxastic dialectics
At the beginning of our exploration of doxastic (/belief) field (Amel, 1999), we took for granted the cognitive autonomy of an alternative to epistemic truth, that of doxastic truth, which we call the persuasive truth[i]. In contrast with the epistemic truth, which represents the logical determination of episteme, the doxastic truth represents the ontological density of doxa, intelligibly perceived in its meaning. We should emphasize the following two aspects: a. regarding the field of investigation – in our opinion, doxastic dialectics does not refer to the pre-epistemic stage of truth, but is limited to the field of supersensible reality (the ‘reality’ of values), a cognition meaning-oriented; b. regarding participants’ bona fide – the condition, in virtue of which doxastic dialectics develops its investigations, excludes the premise that notices a cleavage of justification, as A.Kasher calls it[ii] (1986), namely, excludes any kind of contextually distorted utterance of belief.
The remarks regarding doxastic dialectics are selected from our previous studies about the respective issue (Amel 1999, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014):
1. Doxastic dialectics is the exclusive procedure that establishes the fundaments of axiology.
2. Generally speaking, the dialectical study of persuasive truth is a kind of semantic logic, trying to explain how to determine the doxastic meaning.
3. The semantic logic compatible with the doxastic field is based on a rational procedure that follows, in hermeneutical terms, the process of understanding (the meaning), not knowing (the truth).
4. From the philosophical point of view, the rationality of the meaning investigation is pursued dialectically in both senses of the concept of ‘dialectics’:
a. ‘dialectics’ as antithetic reasoning, challenging the subjects’ cognitive intentionality;
b. ‘dialectics’ as a formative process, during which the pragmatic subjectivity gets phenomenological dimension.
1.2. The goal of the present investigation
1. The investigation has in focus the synthetic mechanism of doxastic/belief dialectics.
In the first study about doxastic dialectics (Amel, 1999), we have mentioned three theoretical functions of doxastic (/belief) dialectics: the dissociative, the justificatory and the synthetic function.
2. Having in view the subjective and rhetorical involvement of the persuasive truth, we find profitable to approach the ‘rationality’ of doxastic thinking in phenomenological terms. With Husserl, belief is a thetic act, namely a ‘speech act’ in consciousness. Phenomenology acknowledges the cognitive priority of belief (Husserl, 1931: 301), a definition that supports our dissociative approach. From cognitive point of view, the dissociative function proves its importance, because it establishes cognitive intervals between belief – an idea posited in consciousness, doxa – the conceptual representation of the respective idea of value in reason, and opinion – corresponding to the discursive, namely the contingent form of belief. In our previous studies the attention was especially focused on the mechanism of decidability in doxastic dialectics, by demonstrating that the justificatory procedure requires operations on the three levels mentioned above.
3. The present investigation, which has in focus only the synthetic mechanism of doxastic/belief dialectics, will approach a single aspect: the metaphysical transubstantiation. We intend to explain, in personal terms, this idea which was mentioned by P.Grice (1991) and to which we have briefly made reference several times. Initially, the concept of metaphysical transubstantiation gave us the possibility to offer a general explanation of the dialectical mechanism of doxa. Grice’s idea supported our hermeneutical argument: the semantic nature of the ‘truth’ of beliefs, structured by antithetic rationality, gets persuasive prestige owing to a paradigmatic transfer: from a pragmatic paradigm to an axiological one. Due to the phenomenological perspective in which our enterprise approaches the doxastic dialectics, the concept of metaphysical transubstantiation will be treated inside the laboratory of the hermeneutical synthesis, which is the human consciousness. The metaphysical transubstantiation becomes the explanatory key of the meaning enquiry of beliefs, by revealing the rationality of the hermeneutical mechanism.
4. For a comprehensive understanding of the doxastic rationality, our demonstration will develop the thesis in conformity with which belief has a self-referential dimension. During doxastic dialectics, subjectivity acquires cognitive dimension, progressively becoming conscious of it. In phenomenological terms, subjectivity represents the origin of the thinking activity. It holds the power of translating the sensitive matters into intelligible ones. The beliefs’ contents, experienced and assumed by the subject/the speaker in his consciousness, represent thetic acts (acts in consciousness). The reference to the metaphysical transubstantiation supports the phenomenological explanation of the MORAL OBJECT[iii]. During the doxastic dialectics beliefs acquire ‘objectivity’. If Grice’s concept regarding metaphysical transubstantiation is conceived ‘in extenso’, the cognitive dialectics – meaning oriented – goes through more than one operation of cognitive synthesis. The self-referentiality of belief is finally crystallized in the form of the MORAL SUBJECT (=self-consciousness), ontologically reoriented.
5. The deep logic of belief dialectics explains the dynamics of self cognition.
2. The beliefs’ structure of forces
2.1. Belief as a speech act
Looking backwards, to reach the origin of the force of belief, we discover the “pragmatic dimension” of beliefs/ opinions, in conformity with which we are entitled to say that beliefs have performative force. Two aspects are important to be mentioned: one regarding the subject who expresses his beliefs (/utters his opinions), and another regarding the dialog partner to whom the belief is confessed. In the pre-epistemic stage, the function of dialectics is to demonstrate that the affirmations contained by the subjects’ beliefs are correct.
I think/ my impression is this child is well developed for his age.
When beliefs refer to a supersensible reality (the substance of values), a normal subject is extremely careful to justify his position as a locutor, and to explain the partner and to himself what reason he has to affirm a certain opinion about a moral reality. He is ready to offer explanations that could support his utterance.
– (I believe) this boy is very wise: Do you know what he once said to me? Errando discitur!
– He knows Latin?
– I am wondering less he is using Latin aphorisms – to give himself airs -, but it is astonishing to see a child reflecting about his own behavior, trying to improve it … etc.
The self-referentiality of the utterance that contains a belief is explained by the subjective dimension of beliefs. We plead for an interpretative power of subjective thinking which is governed by both pragmatic and introspective rationality. A rational speaker, conscious of the Principle of Uncertainty characterizing doxastic thinking, becomes responsible for what he says. The speaker is a problematizing subject. His thinking, antithetically[iv] developed, engenders a self-reflective attitude. His words are oriented towards his own mind in order to measure the extension of the meaning he intends to formulate. As we have already mentioned: with Husserl, belief is a thetic act, namely a ‘speech act’ in consciousness. The dissociative function of dialectics stimulates the subjective reflection.
– This child knows very well what he wants: he has personality.
– You think personality means to be voluntary, self-willed or obstinate ?
– I have said: he knows what he wants.
– In my opinion, personality means to have power of discernment.
– You mean moral personality, but there are people who have pragmatic personality.
In an axiological dispute, the subject’s cognitive intention is stimulated by the partner’s discursive position, helping him to clarify his own thoughts. The ‘ideal reality’ of axiology becomes the object of a moral reflection, during which consciousness assumes the sense of this ‘reality’ by self-reference. We call the respective cognitive act – moral reflection, an inner experience, deprived from ethical involvement. The original power of self-reflection becomes performative: cogito ergo sum ergo loquor. That is our definition of belief (see Amel, 1999). The premise of the self-referentiality of beliefs motivates the conclusion that beliefs, as acts in consciousness, assure the original burst of languge[v].
It is insufficient to say: ‘beliefs’ affirm that and that’. The subject’s self-referentiality engenders the subject’s will to manifest himself and to ‘impose’ the meanings of his words on the dialogue partner. Any belief has the intention to utter a verdict, which means that beliefs have the illocutionary force to institute reality, a reality that should be followed or avoided. The illocutionary force of expressive acts is not contested, but their validity is. While during epistemic dialectics the Principle of Rationality requires proofs which can validate the referential route of a verdict, during doxastic dialectics interlocutors appeal to semantic/ hermeneutic proofs, an enterprise which is not deprived of rationality. Hermeneutics can justify the subjective authority to promote a sense by four such proofs: original, paradigmatic, normative, generative[vi]. In our prior studies about doxastic dialectics, we have developed some of them.
2.2. Dialectical proofs within doxastic cognition
a. The original proof is given by the self-referentiality of the belief-speech act. ‘To assume a sense’ in consciousness means to promote a sense – by the ‘authority’ of being experienced in one’s own mind.
b. The paradigmatic proof is given the moment the principle of Uncertainty calls upon a Principle of Transcendence, when the self-reference of belief is raised to a categorical position, able to prepare its conceptualization. The doxastic conceptualization is a synthetic (or constitutive) operation, having a justificatory target. By arriving at this stage, the role of dialectics is to raise the dispute up to the metalanguage level (see the above example: 1 vs. 2, 3), in order to consolidate the paradigmatic grounds of believing by or in axiological categories. During this process the MORAL OBJECT may find its determination:
– What do you mean by being wise, with reference to a child? What do you precisely mean by wisdom?
The moral object becomes the doxa’s a posteriori referent. The interval engendered by the dissociative function of dialectics between doxa and belief is temporarily recovered, due to the validity of paradigmatic proofs; but their validity is only probable. Doxastic dialectics is a creative not a regulative process. It is language dependent, and the persuasive truth remains a question of permanent meaning inquiry[vii].
c. The normative proof was less mentioned by us in our previous studies regarding doxastic dialectics. All the hermeneutic investigations that support the logic of doxa, namely that of the ‘persuasive truth’ of values, are normatively oriented. Categorical proofs extend hermeneutics by many associative operations, including even an inquiry of Zeitgeist. At this stage, doxastic dialectics tries to consolidate the axiological hierarchy, universally valid.
d. What we mean by generative proof will be explained in the following chapter.
3. Metaphysical transubstantiation
3.1. Grice’s argument
Grice’s idea concerning the metaphysical transubstantiation is an argument in favor of the metaphysical objectivity of values (Grice 1991: 35). It represents the procedure for the redistribution, but not the invention, of properties. For example – properties accidentally meant for humans become essential properties of a new psychological type called persons (cf. idem, 114).
Grice’s argument concerning the metaphysical transubstantiation corresponds to what we define as being the paradigmatical proof, an argument regarding the axiological consciousness of a (speaking) subject. The way Grice demonstrates the objectivity of values is equivalent to our interpretation of the MORAL OBJECT, a transfer from a pragmatic quality into a phenomenological dimension of belief. Because belief is a cognitive act in consciousness, self-referentiality gets rational authority, able to validate the grounding arguments of value[viii]. Our original and paradigmatic arguments represent the objectifying terms of belief, and they drive dialectics toward its semiotic stage. The process could be equated to Grice’s finalist arguments. From this perspective, his demand for absolute values becomes rational. See the stages of metaphysical defense, established by Grice:
1. (There are) cases in which a value concept … is attached originally, or directly to a given bearer;
2. If the concept of value is to be authentic and not merely ‘Pickwiking’ in character, then it is required that it be supported by a kind of finality which extends beyond the ‘overlap’ with a mechanistically substitutable finality;
3. That metaphysical house-room found for the notion of absolute value is a rational demand (cf. Grice, 1991:116-117).
3.2. The two levels of metaphysical transubstantiation
With Grice – who is looking for a proof that could support the objectivity of value – the metaphysical transubstantiation represents the transfer from humans to persons. In our interpretation, the relevance of that proof is moral, by its power to objectify the inner sense of human consciousness.
The ‘persuasive truth” of supersensible reality could not be proved other way than by making it intelligible in the form of a conceptual synthesis. From a phenomenological point of view, the cognitive synthesis passes through two levels of metaphysical transubstantiation: conceptual (an axiological category) and semiotic. Actually, there is more than one operation of transubstantiation: the axiological/ moral sense→ the sense of the self →the sense of human condition→ the existential sense, culminating by a semiotic expression. From a comprehensive perspective about belief, the target of doxastic dialectics is not limited to the stage when the moral content is objectified. The MORAL OBJECT is transubstantiated into a MORAL SUBJECT (=the self-consciousness), which represents the becoming reality/ object of the self. The deep logic of belief dialectics explains the dynamics of self cognition. The rationality of this type of cognition, which examines a dynamic ‘object’, is given by a generative proof. Therefore, in this subchapter we shall extend the explanation in this direction.
a. The metaphysical transubstantiation opens two dialectical movements, such as we have mentioned at the beginning of our commentary: one, trying to establish the clear conceptual definition of axiological ideas, and another, during which the formative impulse of consciousness is triggered. In both these directions, the subjects crystallize in their consciousness the conditions for a better evidence of self-referentiality. The synthesis of the moral objects (axiological ideas), could be considered, in Grice’s terms, a rational demand, in conformity with which the subjectivity becomes a moral person.
The major difficulty in bringing paradigmatical proof begins when the metaphysical transubstantiation acquires phenomenological dimension. This is the moment when the categorical sense of a value is acquired by subject’s consciousness. The paradigmatical proof is a dilemmatic moment. The moment of doxa’s conceptualization opens the “inner infinity of the dialogue”, as Gadamer said, actually a metadialogue. During the metadialogue, the dialogue partners try to settle the semantic difference between similar concepts, having in view that each of them is relevant for a different level of consciousness (psychological vs. spiritual; temperamental vs. spiritual etc.)
What is the difference between pride and dignity?
What is the difference between the polemic inflammation and the intellectual passion?
The correct conceptualization of doxa is hindered by frequent hesitations with reference to particular situations. In the collective mentality these metadialogues are considered ‘semantic exercises’, but actually they are phenomenological tests. Due to the conceptual oppositions displayed during doxastic dialectics, the subjects’ moral reflection establishes level oppositions – in usual terms called “values hierarchy” -, helping to crystallize the structure of the self. The subject, in his hermeneutical inquiry, should be prepared to avoid social prejudices, which are very ‘persuasive’, because otherwise the hermeneutical effort would be deprived of moral relevance.
In the Romanian public mentality, deeply infused by a specific skepticism, called băşcălie (a kind of Engl. tongue in cheek), a self-controlled responsible person is qualified as an idiot, a conformist fellow.
Doxa, as a concept, represents the linguistic shape of the supersensible object of value, the idea that this concept should name. Frequently, doxastic concepts are mistakenly defined, even mixed up with dogma, because of a lack of clear distinction between philosophy and ideology. For a correct definition of the value ideas, doxastic dialectics opens its large field of debates, all trying to consolidate the moral and spiritual representation of life[ix].
b. Generally speaking, the metaphysical transubstantiation has spiritual fundaments. Subjectivity is a moral agent, having the power to spiritualize the life people live in. The effort to establish the clear inventory of abstract concepts has more than a “logical” target, that of offering authoritative arguments for individual definitions.
When we are listening to Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, the following question may be asked: Does it express a Teutonic/ heroic feeling or does it open a metaphysical/sublime vision? The real question regards the two opposite concepts, the meaning of which is developed in mind.
The formative structure of consciousness is intentionally SELF-oriented. The MORAL OBJECTs become the inner objects of reference, due to which the MORAL SUBJECT finds its structural fundaments and acquires objectivity. The world of the Ego is in continuous extension. The moral becoming is looking for a sense/ a direction in life. There is a natural tendency to get an answer to the big existential mystery, a cognitive process that includes the art / the entire human creation into it. The art productions are considered the generative proof of believing, the highest step of understanding, inside which the consciousness is crystallized in a symbolic vision. The figurative meanings associated to each name of contiguous objects represent only the beginning. The human language reflects this tendency:
Bridge, door or window, circle, light and darkness, different animals etc.
These examples are part of long series of symbols to which the mythical thinking makes reference. Subjectivity is cognitively troubled to decode the language of life, as the poet said: to read the world and to understand it. ‘To read the world” by inventing scenarios, allegories, cryptograms, etc., means to find an interpretative language that has generative power, due to which doxa extends its moral dimension. The human “second play” is the symbolic form which concentrates the idea of the human condition and in which the contiguous first game (= the everyday life) reveals its meaning.
The formative power of subjectivity was largely debated by art criticism. Cassirer’s Philosophy of Symbolic Forms offers the best argument of what we define as the semiotic transubstantiation of axiological universe. The Romanian philosopher, Gabriel Liiceanu, begins his complex analysis of the semiotic nature of art productions with a definition of the symbol in the same terms we have explained the metaphysical transubstantiation. “Each general consideration regarding symbolic productions is compelled to consider the double foundation of symbolic work in the human mind: the need to visualize the abstract and the need to transcend the visible” (2005, 7). In the same book, we have found an argument regarding the objectifying function of the symbolic forms. The artist, by his introspection, is able to instantiate the inner perception. G.Liiceanu, based on the book of Börsch-Supan/Jähnig, Gaspar David Friedrich, München, 1973, p.14, says:
The problem in these pictures isn’t what the characters, hypnotized by the horizon, actually see, but what we see, looking at them. And we see what Friedrich says: ‘The look which transpierces the profoundness of the landscape is turning back towards the inner self’ (of the person who is looking, and whom we see from behind) (p.190).
A superficial explanation may say that the metaphysical transubstantiation leading to symbolic forms is due to a linguistic transfer: from a referential (literal) language to a semiotic (figurative) one. From cognitive point of view, the symbolic forms wrap up the beliefs in such a way that the deep vision receives ontological substance. The synthetic power of symbolic forms has several degrees of concentration, in conformity with the subject’s cognitive clear-sightedness. The most important thing that occurs during the semiotic transubstantiation is the creative effort to reach the level of exemplariness. The metaphysical transubstantiation is part of a subjective dynamics, governed by the same principle of rationality which, during the epistemic process of the creation of theoretical models, affirms: the ‘theoretical model’ should be consistent (in our terms “relevant”), exhaustive (“comprehensive”) and simple (“concise”).
It is the moment to remind what L. Hjelmslev said (1947:11) referring to the goal of a scientific theory: “The aim of a theory is to elaborate a procedure in conformity with the principles of the theory … The description shall be free of contradiction (self-consistent), exhaustive, and as simple as possible.” (p.11)
The generative proofs offer the authority or stand under the authority of an interpretative key – a doxastic archetype. The semiotic force of a doxastic archetype is the result of a gradual synthesis operated within the moral contents.
The synthetic function of doxastic dialectics, more than the other two -dissociative and justificatory, assures the ontological fundaments of ethics and aesthetics. The moral sense represents an immanent condition of beliefs, their ontological density. A comprehensive view about Grice’s concept allows us to see in the process of the metaphysical transubstantiation the formative will of subjectivity to get an integrated vision of life. The inner necessity of the Ego to crystallize its self represents the cognitive challenge of man’s consciousness. In creating a virtual image of human condition, the subjectivity has the power to project, in conceptual and semiotic forms, a ‘reality’ of a second degree.
4.1. Belief as a reason to adopt a certain attitude (social or metaphysical)
This seems to be a pragmatic axiom. If we reopen the commentary about the beliefs’ structure of forces, the ‘rationality’ of the projecting power of beliefs becomes obvious (a persuasive truth).
“I believe in the power of ideas to change things”
(M.Dascal’s saying, in G.Scarafile, 2010: 18).
From philosophical perspective, Marcelo Dascal’s saying and many similar formulations emphasize the point where beliefs and behavior are connected: I believe (my belief is): ideas (beliefs) have force.
The transubstantion of the pragmatic sense into the moral sense/object represents only the beginning of a complex synthesis of the moral subject (=the ‘object’ of self consciousness). The competence of subjectivity to establish a clear definition of values and their hierarchical disposition is part of the becoming process of the self. The final cause of self consciousness is to be able to refer to oneself as being a categorical instance looking for a sense in life, for a direction, for a correct, ethical action.
The opposition moral object vs. moral subject, presented above, is not identical with Grice’s opposition human vs. person, but represents a cognitive extension of Grice’s rational demand. The cognitive gain, offered by the synthetic function during the double metaphysical transubstantiation, emphasizes the power of subjectivity to be the ‘point’ of an active articulation of thinking. One should not neglect that the synthetic function of doxastic dialectics has normative consequences. After a serious confrontation between generative and normative proofs, the MORAL SUBJECT acquires ethical legitimacy. Whether this legitimacy is disputable or not is another theoretical/ philosophical problem.
4.2. To read the world and to understand it
This is an intuitive remark of spontaneous hermeneutics. With this formulation we are in the neighborhood of the Heideggerian hermeneutics, which was the point of departure of the approach we have chosen regarding doxastic dialectics.
Our argumentation in favor of a progressive abstraction of doxa, encourages the idea that the laic hermeneutics of beliefs is a ‘rational’ way to follow the persuasive truth. An interesting similarity between the laic hermeneutics of doxa – developed by us through several metaphysical transubstantiations – and the hermeneutics of sacred texts supports the same conclusion. See the way the Judaic hermeneutics explains the meaning of the sacred texts:
The Judaic hermeneutics of Torah (the Bible) establishes four methods of interpretation, all united under the acronym pardas: pshat – plain (interpretation), remez – allusive (a kind of ‘intertextuality’), drush – homiletic and sod – esoteric[x].
i. The conceptual power of the syntagm persuasive truth hit us while reading Parmenide’s Poem (I, 28-30): “You must hear about all things, both the still heart of persuasive truth, and the opinions of mortals, in which there is no true conviction.”
ii. “There is a cleavage of justification. The speaker may be asked both for the grounds of his belief, that what he has asserted does hold, and for the reasons he has had for saying what he believes to be the case.” (Kasher 1986: 286). See also Amel (1994). Pragmatic reasons (such as the cleavage of justification), and especially phenomenological ones determine us to mention the theoretical importance of the dissociative function of doxastic dialectics (Amel, 1999) (see further on).
iii. This is the moment of intersection between pragmatics and phenomenology. Due to this intersection, the philosopher establishes the point where the argumentative intentionality is related to cognitive intentionality (see here the phenomenological concept of intentionality: “It belongs as a general feature to the essence of every actual cogito to be a consciousness of something” Husserl, 1931:119) The inner experience of meaning becomes a rational entity – an OBJECT – for/in consciousness.
iv. The antithetic thinking is a structural function of both rationality and perception. See Gadamer’s remark about Socrates’ art of conversing: “an exercise of thinking in opposites” (198o: 93). See also the eloquent title of Jacqueline Sudaka-Benazéraf’s book about Paul Klee’s illustrations to Voltaire’s writings, Car le blanc seul n’est rien.
v. “Language is the house of Being/ Die Sprache ist das Haus des Sein” (See Heidegger, Humanismus, 1957: 24; 1959:166). Cf. Heidegger (1976: 313): „Im Denken das Sein zur Sprache kommt. Die Sprache ist das Haus des Seins. In ihrer Behausung wohnt der Mensch.”
vi. In this theoretical context, generative is meant in Chomskian and not Aristotelian sense (See the Aristotelian four causes of a phenomenon: generative, formative, final and material).
vii. “There is a productive ambiguity, the multiplicity of interrelated aspects of meaning, which articulate the field of knowing” (Gadamer, 1980: 111). See also: Gadamer’s interest regarding the Platonic turn to discourse (idem), Gadamer’s affirmation “le dialogue en tant que démarche herméneutique” (1976: 229), and Gadamer’s general idea about the “inner infinity of the dialogue”.
viii. The cognitive power of self-referentiality can be proved by Heidegger’s affirmation regarding the foundational position of subjectivity: “Die Subiectivität ist die wesenhafte Gesetzlichkeit der Gründe, welche die Möglichkeit eines Gegenstandes zu reichen kann“ (1977: 137).
ix. “Inevitably, a doxastic philosopher is a prisoner of language. The provisional scheme of interpretation (when opinions are delivered) cannot overcome the argumentative ability of the thinker, and, consequently, the “persuasive truth” is frequently obscured by preconceived meanings that are associated to basic concepts“ (Amel, 1999: 11). See also: Gadamer’s philosophy concerning the hermeneutical circle (1976, 1977).
x. HaRav Menahem Hacohen, Introduction, (1996: 5). See also: “What is common to all the faces of Torah is their beauty, which gratifies those who want to enjoy the fruits of the tree of knowledge and breathe the flavor of the pardes of Torah” (idem).
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