It is like programming languages only not as bad, why are there so many programming languages being developed now? Because there are a myriad ideas on how to do it and they are fighting out a survival of the fittest sort of game. What is really happening is that a lot of domain specific ontologies are being created. One ontology to rule them all is a pipe dream. The implicit knowledge in the world is just too complex. As far as I know only Cyc has the idea of trying to explicitly cover everything. I recommend Sowa’s approach Guided Tour of Ontology
Soliped Pictures and Definition
But we must not forget that the horse has a special place in Homer.
For instance there is the Trojan Horse
There are the immortal horses: HIPPOI ATHANATOI
And there are the brothers of Helen who were famous as horsemen: Castor and Pollux
So the fact that the Horse had a single hoof was a way of calling it out and giving it dignity over other animals.
My churlish answer is that there is real philosophy and there is fake philosophy, and the ones who claim to be the real philosophers and to denigrate the others are the ones who are the most under suspicion. In other words the Analytical philosophers claim that Continental philosophy is fake philosophy, (meaningless and senseless) and that Analytical philosophy is the true philosophy while for the most part other Continental philosophers just get on with their work and have no concern for denigrating Analytical Philosophy. So it should be our suspicion that the ones claiming to be the real philosophers while running down others must have something to hide. And part of what they have to hide is that theirs is really the fake philosophy. Let us remember that analytical philosophy started out as an anti-philosophy saying that all metaphysics was an illusion. Continental Philosophy is merely the European Philosophical tradition getting on with its own evolution and its own concerns. It is Analytical Philosophy that took an anti-philosophical turn in England and then America, which was shaped by anti-communism of the McCarthy era more than anything else. Analytical Philosophers are specialists who have nothing to say about anything outside their speciality, while Continental Philosophy takes as its subject matter a wide swath of human culture as its materials such as literature, psychoanalysis, western culture and society, politics, etc. See the writings of Zizek as an extreme example. In other words Continental Philosophy is engaged in the totality of our modern world and Analytical Philosophy is disengaged and aloof from the world in which they live for the most part, and really have nothing to tell us about anything outside their speciality. Yet they claim that Continental Philosophy is esoteric and incomprehensible and in the end meaningless and senseless, even though it is only Continental Philosophy which is attempting to make sense of the world in which we actual live in our postmodern times. For the most part the Analytical Philosophers can’t even be bothered to read the philosophy that they are criticizing and that they look down upon from their high positions ensconced in American and English academia. Of course if you do not read something, and you don’t try to understand it, then anything can be misconstrued as nonsense if you try hard enough to obscure its meaning by not understanding the tradition within which it is embedded. Meanwhile Continental Philosophy gets on with its work, and is in fact gaining ground while Analytical Philosophy is fading. And that is because English majors who need some basis on which to think about works of literature have taken up Continental Philosophy as a useful way of looking at Literature, and there are a lot more English programs in America than there are philosophy programs in Universities and Colleges.
Now that I have gotten my churlish answer out of the way, we can get down to cases and we can talk about the sense that Continental Philosophy does make and then use that as a contrast to Analytical Anti-philosophical Specialism that has flourished in American Academia. My own introduction to Continental Philosophy came as an undergraduate when I took courses on Heidegger and Husserl from Alfonso Verdu in the early seventies. Then I went on to LSE UK to study Sociology and that was a time when Philosophy of Science was big at that school and it was the leader in that field. So naturally I decided to turn my own attention to Philosophy of Science as well and my dissertation title was “Structure of Theoretical Systems in relation to Emergence”. Basically I was taking as my starting point the work of G.H.Mead in The Philosophy of the Present on the nature of Emergence as a starting point for understanding paradigm and other discontinuous changes in the Scientific Tradition. There were no good models for why the Scientific Tradition changed at various scopes discontinuously. Examples of scopes are Facts, Theories, Paradigms (Kuhn), Epistemes (Foucault), Ontos (Heidegger’s epics of Being), Existences (Sartre and Merleau-Ponty, and Absolutes (for instance M. Henry in the Essence of Manifestation). Since there were no answers to this in the normal English language philosophy works I turned to the Continental Works that were just then being translated into English and found that there were some attempts at answering this question. In the Continental Works of that time which were those of Merleau-Ponty, Sartre, Derrida etc that were being translated in the Seventies there was the idea of the different kinds of Being that were in the process of being developed. It is this idea that the Analytical Philosophers find so inscrutable above all others. All Philosophy prior to the phenomenology of Heidegger in Being and Time thought that Being only had one modality which was Pure Being, or the Static Being of Parmenides. Heidegger introduced the idea that Being could have different modalities such as Process Being, or Becoming as well which we can trace back to Heraclitus. But even accounts like those of Hegel that are rooted in dynamism in theory, present the dynamics of thought as if it were itself Pure Being too, for instance in the Logic of Hegel where the dynamic is subsumed into a purely present telos. Heidegger was the first to say that there are different modes of Being Pure (present-at-hand) and Process (ready-to-hand) and to develop the implications of the equi-primordiality of these modes of Being. The problem of course was that Heidegger opened Pandoras Box and out of it spilled a plethora of different kinds of Being, such as Wild Being and Hyper Being as defined by Merleau-Ponty. Hyper Being was the same as the Being crossed out discovered by Heidegger and Differance defined by Derrida is differing and deferring. The question was how to understand these different kinds of Being that were being identified. Which ones were just different names for the same thing, and which ones were genuinely emergent phenomena?
My tact was to take Russell’s Higher Logical Type theory as the basis and to understand the different kinds of Being as Meta-levels of Being. And this in fact worked quite well in sorting out the confusion of the morass of images of the modes of Being that were being discovered. It turns out that there are only five meta-levels of Being and that they are fairly well defined by their different proponents within the Continental tradition. If you understand that the Continental Tradition is exploring the space of the possible modalities and aspects of Being and that is organized into emergent meta-levels by Higher Logical Type Theory then what seems incomprehensible about Continental Philosophy from an Analytical perspective makes sense and really does have meaning, if one just works hard at figuring out what that meaning is rather than just writing it off as incomprehensible without doing any work to understand it. The problem is that after Russell Logical Type Theory was rejected by the Analytical Tradition starting with Quine. So they lost the key by which Continental Philosophy could be decoded by the simpler minds that inhabit the speciality of Analytial Philosohy. They could not handle the ramification of Higher Logical Type Theory in their own tradition which was dreamed up to solve paradoxes by Russell. And what greater Paradox is Being which is a unique anomaly in Indo-European languages but which we take to be universally applicable to all cultures and worlds. Being is not universal but is in fact a linguistic anomaly and so when we go on to talk about the meta-levels of Being it is interesting that at the fifth meta-level there is a phase transition from Being to Existence. This, of course, was known by the Arabs who distinguished between Wajud (Existence) and Kun (Being) in their analysis of the Greek philosophical texts that was inherited by the Europeans in the Renaissance. The Arabs realized that Being had two components one that was related to what they called Existence (Wajud) and something that went beyond that which they gave the technical term of Kun (to make) that stood for the rest of Being beyond Existence. When this was translated into Latin during the Renaissance the word Existence was coined to stand for Wajud or Existence. So basically the modalities of Being are merely the stages of the devolution of Being as paradox into the core of Existence. But each stage is an emergent phase transition and thus has its own characteristics and it is important to undersand these because they have such wide influence within our historical social construction of our worldview.
So what we have dealt with is the sense that the fundamental ideas of the Continental Tradition can make if we do enough work to understand them based on the tools that were thrown away by the Analytic Specialists. I had searched and searched for a good book about Higher Logical Type Theory that was explained so succinctly by Copi, and it turned out that that book is Logic of Sense by Deleuze. As far as I can tell the Analytic Tradition has not developed these ideas any further since they abandoned Russell’s concept of the ramification of Type Levels. Their objection to it was its seeming infinite possible ramification But in fact in practice it does not rammify infinitely but there is in fact a finite number of levels (five to be exact) with respect to the Ultimate Idea of Being (Ultimate in its emptiness, and its generality of abstraction, and its significance and paradoxicality in our Indo-European languages). This means that Being is not equivalent to Cantorian Set Theory. Even Heidegger had this fear when he discovered the necessity of Being crossed out as a third kind of Being. But it has turned out that even Plato knew that this “third kind of Being” existed as seen in the Timaeus (cf Sallis Chrology). That is why Heidegger decided to turn against his own concept of Ontological Difference and developed the concept of Beyng (Seyn) as the dual of Being (Sein). Beyng is Strange, Unique and Onefold and most importantly what Being looks like without the striations of the meta-level modalities of Being under the influence of the difference of Ontological Monism between Being and beings. But in fact it is harder and harder to think the meta-levels of Being (which is equivalent to the various intelligibilities available within our worldview). These levels become exponentially harder to think until they become impossible to think and thus become the singularity of Ultra Being at the fifth meta-level which is the nature of Being as an existent. Badiou talks about ultra Being in terms of the advent of the Ultra One which eclipses the heterogeneity of the Multiple. Zizek on the other hand though his interpretation of Lacan via Hegel produces an anti-Derridian vision that attempts to comprehend the field of illusions related to the aspects of Being. Zizek and Badiou are a team developing philosophies that make sense of Ultra Being, just like Deleuze and Foucault was previously when trying to develop a philosophy at the limits of Wild Being. Prior to that was the team of Sartre and Merleau-Ponty which attempted to explore the implications of Heidegger’s new philosophy in different ways. It was Derrida who discovered how to interpret Being crossed out of Heidegger and thus sounded the death knell of structuralism by showing that it was just as unified as the level of formalism and that unity was itself questionable. The point is that this rediscovery of the kinds of Being in Continental Philosophy tells us a lot about our worldview that we would not be able to understand otherwise. It unites the disciplines of Formalism, Structuralism, Hermeneutics, Semiotics, Phenomenology, Dialectics, Psychoanalysis, Literary Criticism, etc. by the discovery that Being itself has a structure which is exposed by understanding it as an absurdity and then applying the higher logical types to it. The types at each level are the aspects of Being which are Identity, Presence, Truth and Reality. These ideas offer us a basis for a powerful critique of our culture and society, not to mention our tradition as a whole which has been entranced under the spell of Being since the beginning not realizing that from the point of view of all other languages what we have been indulging is is an illusion. But it is a powerful illusion, and that illusion is one that has had benefits. It is not for nothing that 60% of the world speaks an indo-European language of some kind. That is because those of us suffering under the illusion of Being have been successful at dominating all other peoples and destroying all other world that are different from our own, not to mention sending into oblivion myriads of languages though the domination of colonialization and now globalization. But this is the second world wide conquest by indo-europeans the first being with the genetic breading of horses to make them big that gave the indo-europeans a great advantage over all other tribes in ancient history and led to the first colonialization of the world by Indo-European speakers. History does repeat itself and so even though Being is an illusion it has powerful real world advantages, and I think it is worth studying why that might be the case, and have dedicated myself to that study for years. Both the Indo-europeans and those that they dominate need to understand this unusual efficacy of the anomaly of Being in the Indo-european language. Continental Philosophy is just a rediscovery of the details of this inner structure of Being that lurks under the surface and whose sign is the fragmentation of the roots of Being and Having in indo-european languages. What convinced me that it was important was when I discovered that the differences in the kinds of Being existed as the differences in the Gods associated with the Caste structure in the Vedas, as seen in the works of Dumazil. That prompted me to write a book about it called The Fragmentation of Being and the Path beyond the Void at http://works.bepress.com/kent_palmer.
Ultimately the difference between Continental Philosophy and Analytical Philosophy is that the former has broken through and has explored the internal structure of Being as the key to understanding the deep structure of our worldview, while Analytical Philosophy as an anti-philosophical speciality has decided to continue to dwell on the surface of Pure Being. They reject Hegel and Husserl and the rest of Continental Philosophy so that only Kant is shared between the two traditions. Analytical Philosophy has reduced its role to being the handmaiden of Science, while Continental Philosophy has taken on the task of understanding the underpinnings of our worldview as deeply as possible. One has made itself irrelevant to the challenges of the modern world, and the other is engaged in the problems of the modern world taking as its materials all elements of current culture and attempting to offer insightful explanations of them. One is fearful of politics and the other takes on the thorny issues of politics in our time. You did not see any Analytical Philosophers speaking at the occupy Wallstreet protests, but Zizek was there. We may not like what he says because he is a communist [The unbearable lightness of Slavoj Žižek’s communism] but he is engaged, he is thinking about contemporary issues and he is speaking out . . .
Quora answer: How does an atheist reconcile with the same logic used for “God does not exist” and “God does not not exist”? Are they the same logically?
It was the when English was given its grammar based on Latin precedents that the idea that two negatives makes a positive was applied. In English multiple negatives always meant something different in each case as in the first sentence in Chaucer’s Tales, and thus rather than negatives cancelling in English it takes us up into meta-levels which is the dual of the Meta-levels of Being. Only Indo-European languages have Being so since Existence is not striated, the only way to get something like the meta-levels of Being is to look at the meta-levels of Non-Existence.
God is considered the Supreme Being. Onto-Theological Metaphysics according to Heidegger is bound up in asserting the Being of God as both Good only and Absolute which is a contradiction in itself. What is absolute should be beyond all differentiating criteria. The best image of the Absolute is the one in the Hindu tradition which is the Nirguna Brahman. This is the idea of the Godhead that appears in Meister Eckhart as well. But of course he was being tracked down by the thought police of his era for thinking so. The Absolute in fact negates the Supreme Being producing an infinite characterless desert that is empty. Meister Eckhart says it boils within itself to give rise to the incarnation, i.e. the avatars of God (krisna, christ, etc). This boiling is not unlike what Sartre talks about when he reverses Heidegger to come up with Nothingness rather than Process Being (Becoming) as the basis of human consciousness. So nothingness, or the boiling of the Godhead, is like the negation of the absolute which results in something positive, i.e. an incarnation. This logic of two wrongs make a right runs pretty deep. We see it play out in the Mahabharata with Krisna suggesting that each of the Pandavas violate the Dharma,for which they end up in Hell, while their evil enemies end up in Heaven, before they realize that heaven and hell is an illusion. The Pandavas must violate the Dharma which they uphold as the sacred law in order to win over their evil opponents the Karavas in this war of attrition between two branches of the same family. Evils on both sides cancel each other out, but also cancel out the family because their the children are killed in a night raid. Krisna tells Arjuna to fight because that is the dharma of the Warrior class, even against ones family. Upholding the Dharma of ones caste is above all other duties, even the duty to ones family. But in battle it is impossible to ultimately hold to the dharma, and so in the end those who are best because of their upholding the dharma become the worst because of their breaking with the dharma in the heat of battle when means overcomes the rules that control ends.
This same message of the cancellation of negations in Western Logic as seen in the Logic of Hegel in its most embellished form, prevents the arising of the meta-system which is ultimately polytheistic. It is what preserves the system like the trinity (Hades, Poseidon, Zeus, or what ever trinity one can imagine. Notice Robust Theories in the meaning of S. Wallis are always triangular like Newton’s law, or Ohm’s law. The triangle is the least stable configuration, i.e. the minimal figure in two dimensional space. There are minimal solids in each dimension, like the tetrahedron in the fourth dimension, etc. These are the minimal stable thought forms. If the triangle is the minimal form and the tetrahedron the minimal system, as B. Fuller says, then the way to preserve them and not have them tip over into the meta-system is to enforce the cancellation of double negatives in logic. If each negative as a different meaning as in Old English, and even Middle English then that opens up a more and more subtle realm which is hard to think about and understand which makes it easy to slip into incomensurabilities, and non-representational ethereal realms which are hard to understand.
Atheism is the negation of Theism, and so if we negate that then we do not necessarily come back to Theism. This is the dictum of Deleuze that Repetition is that which does not Repeat. An excellent example of that is sacrifice which destroys whole animals in order to get back to some primordial wholeness which is unachievable. We keep repeating the initial destruction of primordial wholeness thinking we can by that return to that wholeness but it does not work. Similarly the denial of God over and over again does not expunge it from human nature that sees gods everywhere, or under monotheism sees God everywhere. In the Metaphysical era we were immersed in a world filled with meaning and with gods. In the Meta-physical era according to Heidegger we are living in the age of the vanishing and passing of the Gods and our response is nostalgia for the Mythopoietic, and the loss of meaning as Anomie and Alienation that comes with modernism.
What we are saying here is that the assumption that two negatives make a positive as in Arithmetic may not apply to to experience and there is reason to believe that this was imposed on English when its grammar was created to conform to Latin, and thus perhaps this is a false choice. Rather than Atheism being negated to produce Theism again, perhaps it just produces an open series of realms of higher and higher negation that is the dual of the meta-levels of Being, like Pure, Process, Hyper, Wild and Ultra being which takes us into the core of Being where we find Existence. Similarly if we think of God as the Supreme Being encompassing all the meta-levels of Being and Non-Being, and Appearance then we get something similar to the ideas of the Hindus about Brahma (Apollo), Shiva (Dionysus), and Vishnu which takes us into the realm of polytheisms where the various gods are the expression of the Godhead, as in Egypt by the way. This is a Nietzschian view of the striation of the Will To Power caught up in Eternal Return. Somewhere very far from the impoverishment of thought produced by Modernity, and more in line with the Romanticism that is symbolized by Goya’s Dreams of Reason.
For the metaphor buried deep in our cultural subconscious, which I talk about this is my work from an ontological perspective, you might want to consider what I call the Negative Fourfold that is implicit in Greek Mythology as the opposite of the Positive Fourfold spoken about by Socrates and taken up by Heidegger which is Heaven/Earth//Mortal/Immortal which is associated with the masculine. The Negative Fourfold associated in myth with women in Greek Myth is Chaos, Night, Abyss, Covering. See Aristophanes The Birds for the classical locus of this idea, which also appears in a slightly different form in Hesiod’s Theogony along with the Greek requisite misogyny. For my treatment of it see The Fragmentation of Being and the Path Beyond the Void at http://works.bepress.com/kent_palmer.
Quora answer: What are the attractions of false consciousness and bad faith? Are they defense mechanisms, or is there more to them?
Suggest you read Zizek’s interpretation of Lacan to get at this problem. He does not talk about it in terms of false consciousness or bad faith but since you are after what the appeal might be of these existential conditions the Lacanian analysis is pertinent.
I guess what this question is saying implicitly is that “mind” which is part of the “mind/body” dualism is ‘super-natural’ while the body part is ‘natural’; so the question becomes: can you have a dualism like the mind/body duality where one part is not ‘supernatural’. This is precisely what materialism is. Materialism would describe all phenomena as either nature, or epiphenomena of nature, with no transcendental ideals that go beyond nature. It turns out that this is hard to do. Our tradition is idealist, because Kant figured out how to get around Hume’s objections to causality though the idea of a priori projection of synthesis. That assumes transcendentals as a framework like ego, noumena, God. Nietzsche tried to produce an atomist materialism that avoided all transcendentals that was purely immanent without being overtly materialist Deleuze attempts to produce a wholly immanent philosophy based on expressionism. There are a lot of attempts to get around the impasse created by the mind/body duality in our worldview kicked off really in the modern era by Descartes. Spinoza solved the problem by identifying God with Nature and constructing a pantheism. But fundamentally all solutions actually reinforce the dualism in most cases. In other words you need to start from the duality to understand the clever way that someone comes up with to avoid its consequences.
Nonduality on the other hand takes a completely different approach which says that there is Not One! Not Two~ Not Many! In other words there is a possibility that is non-representable that is prior to the arising of the dichotomy. Non-duality despite its name means that we must explain the ur-strata out of which the duality arises, in order to understand the duality. This is Heidegger’s strategy in Being and Time positing Dasein as what was before the Subject/Object dichotomy. But of course this merely pushes the duality deeper into fundamental ontology as the difference between being/Being (ontological difference). True nonduality does not do this but rather explains what is the nature of existence prior to any arising of any distinction, dichotomy, or duality, and how it can arise, and why it is not fundamental, i.e. why non-duality remains fundamental despite the appearances of dualism. Turns out this is hard and it took basically the whole history of Buddhism to figure out how to do this with the epitome being achieved by Fa Tsang with the idea of interpenetration. Thus for him the nondual indicator emptiness was equivalent to the interpenetration of all things. So interpenetration comes first, and then emptiness arises only in response to a specific move of creating a dualism. We invoke emptiness to negate the dualism and return to the primal ground of interpenetration. Thus we realize what the Heart Sutra would have us understand that Form is Emptiness and Emptiness is Form. The inter-transformation of the two occurs in the ground of interpenetration. Form arises along with emptiness that negates it and returns it to the ground of form which is the non-form of interpenetration. But the important thing to realize is that the ground of interpenetration is not unstructured. All the forms you see as you look around you are this ground. Each form you see comes with its emptiness which cancels it out as it arises. So we get non-arising and non-cessation. In other words because the forms arise with the emptiness that cancel them out they do not actually arise but merely appear to arise. And because they are not differentiated from the emptiness that cancels themselves out the forms do not cease to be just because they never left the ground of interpenetration. This way of thinking about the primal ground was perfected by Buddhism, and really has no equivalent in the Western worldview. It is far far more sophisticated than Western philosophy and its ad hoc solutions to philosophical problems that come out of dualism AFTER dichotomies, distinctions, dualisms have arisen. Genuine Nondual philosophies deal directly with this question of non-arising and non-cessation and its corollary which is called dependent co-arising. What that means is that everything arises together from the interpenetrating ground, so that there is quasi-causation rather than direct causation. That quasi-causation is called Karma. I model this with what I call the Emergent Meta-system in Special Systems Theory. Dependent co-arising with quasi-causality is the way that the interpenetrating ground exhibits the dynamism of continuous meta-levels of change. Interpenetration is not static but extremely dynamic, which is modeled by the meta-levels of non-existence in non-indo-european languages. In Indo-European languages we have Being that stands in and ursups the place of negation becoming striated into meta-levels. What you are calling super-natural is merely higher meta-levels of Being which in nondual philosophies of non-indo-european cultures is modeled by meta-levels of non-existence, because existence is itself unstriated unlike Being. So for instane we have Becoming which is Heraclitian Flux (Process Being) that is the first meta-level up from Parmenidian Stasis of Pure Being. But this is not Existence as opposed to Being, but rather just a meta-level of Being. We have to go up to the fifth meta-level of Being before we encounter true existence, and this is why most existentialist philosophy in the West like for instance that of Heidegger or Sartre is not truly existentialist, but rather merely an adumbration of Being of some sort. The whole way of posing this question is caught up in the machinations of Being. In order to solve this problem we need to get outside of Being and understand the nondual interpretations of Existence and then comprehend Existence as interpenetrating as a dynamic ground prior to the arising of any distinction, dichotomy or duality, but which does not negate the world we see in front of us with its own distinctions which we call NTR or Nature. NTR is the word for the Egyptian Gods. From the beginning the Nature was already Supernatural and to this extent Spinoza was right in his pantheism by identifying god and nature. Because NTR is already supernatural in its origins that is why it is possible to have immanent solutions to mind/body dualities like that of Nietzsche or Deleuze.
I don’t think your scenario is correct. We can tell a lot about the history of the context from our own experience. Suggest you look at Husserl’s Internal Time Consciousness edited by Heidegger to get a bigger picture of the issues you are talking about. Also consider Aron Gurwitsch’s book on The Field of Consciousness.
Right now the most popular Continental Philosopher is Zizek, who talks about everything from literature, film to modern politics (He even lectured to the 99% at Occupy WallStreet). I have been reading his works and I find them extremely interesting. I recommend them, especially the works on Hegel and Lacan. There are a lot of his lectures available online and they are always entertaining and usually fairly interesting as well. I like his use of old Communist jokes as a basis for some of his paradoxical thinking. Essentially he is a sophist, his main goal is to take some absurd stand and make it believable, and that makes you think. So of course there are those who will apply his theories to literature even more pervasively than he does. He is more interested in film, but he also uses stories occasionally to illustrate points. I don’t know anyone who has read as much as he has. It is unbelievable the range of what he has read. So you learn a lot about what is out there of relevance that you would never of hear of otherwise if you read his books and listen to his lectures. He made Lacan make sense to me for the first time. But then again he reduces Lacan to Hegel and so that helps. But the combination of Lacan and Hegel is very enticing in as much as it gives a good basis for explaining things in literature that might otherwise remain completely inexplicable. However, to use this kind of approach you have to be a very sophisticated thinker, so he would not be for everyone. Besides he is a latter day communist, which is one reason that his appeal is diminished. But he his a very coy communist and his dedication to that is not very great as far as I can see, he is mostly interesting in unmaking metaphysical absurdities that pass for normal in everyday life. Communism is diminished to an appeal to support for the commons. If he is the next generation of Communist then I don’t think we have much to worry about. Badiou’s Maoism seems much more dangerous (because his thought is too my mind less humane). Zizek is reveling in human all too human like Nietzsche did. Zizek finds some interesting stories to illustrate some of his Lacanian points.
Quora answer: What parallels are there between Nietzsche and modern-day mindfulness and meditation concepts?
I would say that there is no relation between meditation and Nietzsche’s thought. Mainly this is because Nietzsche did not understand Buddhism. Which is interesting since Hegel understood it much better. But Nietzsche was reacting against Schopenhauer and thought that Buddhism was what Schopenhauer thought it was, which was life denying, so Nietzsche lumped it in with Christianity as being life denying. Actually there is no relation between Buddhism and Christianity, and even if we were to say that Hinayana Buddhism seems life denying, it is hard to maintain that for Mahayana Buddhism. But of course the nature of Buddhism itself is fairly subtle and Nietzsche who otherwise is a very subtle thinker just did not get it at all. Better to stick to Buddhist understandings of Buddhism and its meditation practices. Or if you prefer some other type of meditation practice, stick to those who actually know something about it and do not get mixed up by trying to find parallels between Western Philosophers and Meditation practices. Basically Western Philosophers don’t know anything about that, and it is a gigantic deficiency in Western Philosophy that this is not part of the story of human experience considered by Western Philosophy.
I have been asked to explain how Nietzsche’s philosophy would be different if he had understood Buddhism better.
For this we need to go back to Hegel. Nietzsche is someone how is applying Hegelianism to the utmost, exploring its cutting edge implications. Hegel understood Buddhism because he understood emptiness and incorporated it directly into his Logic. So he says that the fundamental dichotomy is between being and nothing. But he defines nothing as Buddhist emptiness, which in fact is an interpretation of existence which is nondual. Therefore, Hegel’s philosophy, almost uniquely within the Western tradition can be interfaced with Buddhist insights into the nondual nature of existence under the rubric of Buddhist emptiness, whose opposite is Taoist Void. So there are two nondual interpretations of existence which is Buddhist Emptiness on the one hand and Taoist void on the other hand. Hegel during his time had at his disposal the first glimmers of knowledge about Buddhism which he interpreted correctly, i.e. he realized that it was not a form of nihilism, and that it was an interpretation of existence, so his first duality is Being verses Existence interpreted as Emptiness. This has a lot of implications but one of them is that it gives us perhaps the only good translation point between Buddhist philosophy and Western Philosophy. The next step is that Hegel provides an aufhebung (sublation) by which this duality he posits which is in fact fundamental to the Western worldview, because only the Western worldview has Being in its language base, and all other languages either have an existential or copula as the core concept of the language. Thus for instance Zeus/Apollo triumph over Typhoon/Python, and this triumph is seen as the triumph of Being over Existence. Existence is almost always represented as a reptilian metaphor most notably the dragon. Note the difference in the nature of the Dragon in Chinese culture for instance. So instead of establishing a monism of Being by completely suppressing Non-Being or Existence, as say Parmenides did with the three ways, Hegel instead says that the synthesis of Being and Nothing as Empty Existence is Heraclitian Flux, i.e. Becoming (what Heidegger will later call ready-to-hand in Being and Time). This showed a lot of insight on the part of Hegel. As Zeno showed any movement what so ever generates contradictions or paradoxes. So Heraclitian Flux of Becoming must be something paradoxical, but this can be avoided if instead we use the concept of emptiness as that which delivers the ability to embed a dynamic into Being by an appeal to empty existence. In other words there are discontinuities that becoming jumps over underlying the continuity that is posited by Being, in order to give continuity in time, rather than just a pure plenum of continuity in the present moment. This in fact gives us an ability to understand what becoming actually is without being contradictory. It is not contradictory because there is just no connection between the moments of Being in the flux of becoming.
The next move that Hegel makes is to posit a new thesis beyond becoming understood in this way, which is Dasein or determinate being, which is the philosophical name for existence in German Philosophy. Heidegger uses this term to describe the a priori projection mechanism thought up by Hegel which is the focus of Being and Time.
Now that we understand the underlying framework established by Hegel that Nietzsche is taking for granted, we can skip to Schopenhauer who had the insight that Kant’s being in itself, or noumena within the human being, rather than in objects is the Wille. So we have noumena within ourselves and we k now it as our Will, or Desire, or in Freud the Trieb. Schopenhauer thought he was translating Hinayana Buddhism into Western parlance and created a very pessimistic philosophy. But unfortunately Schopenhauer did not really understand Buddhism very well, because there is nothing negative about Buddhism because Buddhism is essentially nondual, cannot be negative or positive in its essence. Nietzsche rejected Schopenhauer’s pessimism and reversed it searching for a basis of optimism instead. Nietzsche also reversed Hegel’s idea that all self-consciousness comes from slaves, and that nobles or masters cannot be self-conscious by definition. Note that Hegel said this because slaves are ready-to-hand for the masters, but the slave sees what the masters are doing as present at hand. On the other hand the masters are trapped in the present at hand and cannot reach the ready to hand because that is the domain of the slave, thus we get the master slave dialectic in which the slaves actually become the master of the master in an aufhebung. The slaves we are talking about are the greek philosophers in Rome who were Roman slaves. The master slave dialectic appears perfectly worked out in Waiting for Godot in the relation between Pozzo and Lucky. Nietzsche wanted a philosophy what was Positive in its essential nature and gave self-consciousness to the masters as well as the slaves. Because masters actually established their mastery though works and thus they did have access to the ready-to-hand in warfare by which they established their mastery.
Given these two moves of reversal Nietzsche established the goals of his philosophy and to obtain those goals he attempted to understand the Value of value. In other words he attempted to take values to a meta-level, and he concluded that the ultimate value is life itself based on a Darwinian and Atomistic model. And thus from this point of departure he railed against everything that was life denying, like Schopenhauer, like Christianity, and since he accepted Schopenhauer’s interpretation of Hinayana Buddhism, like Buddhism. But, of course, he was wrong about Buddhism because emptiness is nondual and thus does not affirm or deny life, but merely takes it as an existence, a fact of life.
Now we are entering a very speculative arena. If Nietzsche had actually understood Buddhism at least as good as Hegel did or better, as we can understand it today, then Nietzsche would have had a measuring rod for his own thought. Buddhism is the most sophisticated philosophical tradition on the planet ever. We can mention Nagarjuna, Mipham, Fa Tsang and of course the myriad Mahayana Sutras that explore the subtle nuances of attainable states of consciousness through meditation that they describe in detail. There is nothing like this in Western Philosophy which spends its time just trying mundane everyday experience with no knowledge of the heights possible in the refinement of human spirituality as it interrogates the nondual. Without that measure it is only possible to push the limits of philosophy so far. So for instance we see that Nietzsche thinks by reversing the positions of his predecessors. So he never departs from duality. His only ideas that are are monistic, like Will to Power is everything, or eternal return but even between those there is a duality. But if he had understood Mahayana Buddhism and nonduality he might have been able to go on to other higher types of thought rather than just reacting against what went before. One way to look at it is that his UberMench is really just those who understand Mahayana, but all Nietzsche could only do is say that there is something beyond the Last Man, but not really be able to say what the Ubermench might be. Of course, anyone who knows anything about meditation and its benefits can see that there is a path beyond common humanity, or deeper into ones own humanity as the case may be, is through meditation. So, of course, having philosophies that take into account altered states of consciousness are going to be more sophisticated and more advanced than theories that do not. So if Nietzsche had taken seriously Buddhism then his thoughts would have been very different, but then of course we would not have the Nietzsche we do have who is the master of irony, absurdity, and paradox who reverses all the fundamental assumptions of our tradition so we can see what lies beneath the surface. We are better off to have Nietzsche as he is, without the pollution of nondual ideas. Because after all most of use have no idea about these things anyway, and at least we can relate to Nietzsche as the ultimate heretic of our tradition, and thus in his own way a measure for us of our tradition, but this measure is week compared with the measure of the Buddhist tradition, which we not understand better than we did through earlier Western interpretations that saw it as merely nihilistic without comprehending its intrinsic nonduality. But today we can have both the proto-postmodern outlook of Nietzsche who sees no headland above the world, and the Buddhists who see through the fundamental illusion of our dualistic worldview. Or at least that is a possibility if we read widely enough to encompass both our own tradition and the traditions that are nondual from other countries The real question is how we can come to understand nonduality within the Western Tradition, a lone example of which is Meister Eckhart.