Cave: 11

One of the other things that M. Chauvet said that I found of interest was the following: he said the paintings suggest above all the paleolithic mind’s discovery of mutability or transformation.  He thought he saw in the variety of animals depicted the notion of how easily one thing can become something else.  An Ovidian inspiration avant la lettre?  One might go further and say, weighing the variety of forms with the durability of the style and culture, that the paleolithic painters discovered and grappled with the weighty philosophical distinction between permanence and transience, being and becoming.

For Herzog, the question appears to be how to handle this distinction.  In Kantian terms, Herzog wonders whether transformation and becoming pertains strictly to the empirical realm or whether the transcendental realm is also subject to transformations.  For Kant, it would seem that the transcendental structure of the mind (with its a priori forms of intuition and its a priori categories of thought) is a permanent and inalterable feature of the human species (as God created it).  As suggested before, one part of Herzog certainly seems to throw in with Kant in this respect.  Another part wonders whether the history of the human species reflects a series of mutations in the mind’s transcendental structure.  In other words, is there one kind of mind for the species Homo Sapiens or any number thereof?

The transcendental structure of one’s mind conditions the possibilities of one’s empirical activity.  I can do only what I can imagine doing, and I can imagine only what the transcendental structure of my mind allows me to imagine.  As Slavoj Žižek would say, every one of my empirical interventions is preceded by a symbolic structuring of the universe.  This latter virtual act is the “real” act.  It is the a priori condition of possibility of all my empirically recordable actualizations.  In speaking of the evolution or mutation of transcendental a priori structures, one therefore asserts the invent-ability, the genesis in time of the a priori.  The origin of any given transcendental structure is thus assigned a specific empirical context.  The transcendental is given a consequent nature that reacts upon and is transformed by the alterations of empirical circumstances. In short, the relation between the empirical and the transcendental goes both ways.

Isn’t this reciprocal conditioning of the empirical and the transcendental the ruling idea of Nietzsche’s “genealogy of morals”?  In Nietzsche’s view, Darwin was wrong.  No animal seeks to adapt to its environment: it seeks to alter its environment to suit its own pleasure.  The animal is not defined by a will-to-survive, but by a will-to-power, understood as a form-giving force.  (The will-to-power would thus be the substance of any and all generated transcendental structures.)  At the dawn of its history, the human animal discovered an incredibly effective way of realizing its will to power, that is, its will to alter its environment to glorify itself: by forcing human beings physically weaker than itself to work for it in the realization of that desire.

So the “blond beast” created the social realm as a system of masters and slaves.  And this then would be for Nietzsche the original transcendental structuring of the will-to-power: the generated system of values of master morality, the “uncouth” and “unsymbolic” form of “good and bad” that denoted nothing other than the political superiority of the physically stronger over the physically weaker.  In an a posteriori fashion, master and slave thus became a priori categories of thought.  An empirical alteration in circumstances generates a primitive transcendental structure.

And what of those human beings who become evaluated as slaves? Their own will to power, their own desire to remake the environment for their own glorification, had become blocked.  This is the Nietzschean definition of impotence, the inability to discharge outwardly the desire to make your environment serve you however you like it.  But impotence in this sense is not enough to destroy the will-to-power.  As Nietzsche famously waxed, “One would rather will nothingness than not will.”  Here “willing nothingness” means discharging one’s will-to-power “internally” rather than “outwardly.”  The soul turned against itself, takes itself, as it were, as the environment to be altered.  Of course, the ultimate goal remained the same: the alteration of the outer environment.  But this was to be preceded by the alteration of the inner environment.  The inversion of values by the slave is originally ineffective, “outwardly” speaking.  But it eventually becomes “creative,” by virtue of a protracted and subterranean (cave-ish?) revolt.  So the empirical alteration of the environment into a class-structured society induced the generation of another transcendental structure as well.

Nietzsche says that this coming-to-be of an animal soul turned against itself, forced to discharge its will-to-power internally before externally, “was something so new, profound, unheard of, enigmatic, contradictory, and pregnant with a future that the aspect of the earth was essentially altered.”  A transcendental structure is generated by empirical circumstances and in turn this structure conditions or delimits the possibilities of future empirical interventions…


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