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Speculative thought and critique of philosophy in the work of Milan Kangrga


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Labus, Ida. (2017). Speculative thought and critique of philosophy in the work of Milan Kangrga. PhD Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of Philosophy.
(Poslijediplomski doktorski studij filozofije) [mentor Veljak, Lino].

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The topic of this doctoral thesis is Speculative Thought and Critique of Philosophy in the work of Milan Kangrga (1923-2008). Milan Kangrga was one of the most important thinkers of Yugoslavian and Croatian philosophy in the second half of the twentieth century, whose work has been recognised and valued in European philosophy. Speculative thought and critique of philosophy as metaphysics is Kangrga’s original position of thought that has been developed from historical and revolutionary thinking. Kangrga was one of the co-founders of the philosophical journal Praxis, and worked within the circle of Yugoslavian philosophers whose orientation was the philosophy of praxis. This orientation ponders man as a being of possibilities in the context of utopia and humanism, which marked Kangrga’s entire work. Milan Kangrga was also an active intellectual, who in numerous public comments pointed out the necessity of the struggle for universal humanistic principles and values. The research methodology comprised a comparative research method based on the original texts of Milan Kangrga and other philosophers who are important for the topic, as well as an interpretive and critical approach to the works. The main objectives of the paper were to critically investigate, expose and discuss Milan Kangrga’s speculative thinking, to show what makes up criticism of philosophy as metaphysics, and in which manner Kangrga’s criticism exceeds previous criticism, to point out the modernity and actuality of his thinking, including the scope and originality of his position of thought. Kangrga’s way of establishing the concept of speculation primarily stems from a critical attitude towards the traditional definition of speculation as theory. In the traditional definition, the etymological basis of the concept of speculation is derived from the Latin word speculum (mirror) and the verb speculari (to observe from a distance, explore). Speculation in the traditional definition is also defined as an attempt to find the highest truth through knowledge which in turn is independent of experience. The definition of speculation as theory is present in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, who talks about the speculative use of pure reason. Kangrga points out that Kant overlooked the multiple meanings of the term, which were already present in his philosophy. Specifically, according to Kangrga’s interpretation, the theoretical in Kant's philosophy is found to be in relation with the practical. Kangrga emphasised the possibility of unity of practical and theoretical=speculative (established in Kant's philosophy) as a new aspect of pondering the concept of the speculative. This unity opens a new dimension in the concept of speculation within the history of thought: a new dimension of speculation is evident in the concept of man as a being who through conscious activity produces his own world. The concept of speculation in Kangrga’s opinion is a creative concept in the identity of theory, praxis and imagination. The speculative principle praxis=action=self-establishment was founded in the philosophy of classical German idealism, which represents an essential link to the authentic possibilities of Marx's thought. Speculation, in Kangrga’s interpretation, has an evolutionary path from the radical criticism of the moral phenomenon to the practical-historical and revolutionary-creative horizon. Kangrga’s attitude towards the ethical phenomenon can be conceptually characterised as an “ethical criticism”, while problematisation of ethics and morality is, to Kangrga, a methodological procedure that leads to the essential concepts and problems of one’s own speculative opinion. Kangrga discovers in Kant's ethics the epochal achievements for constitution of historical thinking and the world, but at the same time critically examines its insolvable contradictions. Morals, to Kangrga, represents only one of the fields of humanity, but not the only horizon for achieving man’s holistic creative practice. Speculative thinking is developed from Kangrga’s creative and critical interpretation of primarily the philosophy of classical German idealism, the works of Karl Marx, but also the contemporary philosophy (Ernst Bloch, Theodor W. Adorno, György Lukács, Henri Lefebvre, Martin Heidegger, Herbert Marcuse, Henri Bergson). Thereby, in the early stages of his thinking Kangrga singles out Hegel as a thinker of the revolution who strongly influenced his historical thinking, whereas in the later, particularly speculative stage, he turns towards Fichte as his dominant model. By problematising the relationship between Hegel’s and Marx's philosophy, Kangrga provides insight into the essential moments of the onset and genesis of speculative thinking in classical German philosophy as the premise of revolutionary and historical thinking. The research has shown an exceptionally important role of the concepts of time, praxis, world, responsibility, love, re-evolution and creation with respect to the problematising of the historical world. The notion of responsibility encompasses the ethical/historical postulate and the specific relationship of man towards the world as the horizon of permanent establishment of humanity based on a utopian=futuristic principle. Responsibility within the entirety of Kangrga’s speculation is inseparably linked to humanity. In the moral sphere, Kant laid the foundation of humanity as responsibility towards one’s own conscience. The responsibility of the individual is the highest value of Kant's autonomous ethics and inseparably linked to selfconsciousness. Man finds the contiguity in himself and outside himself, and with his creative activity which always assumes the responsibility of man as a rational being orientated towards the world, he transforms the nature that he encounters in the world. Kangrga’s thinking implies that man, in terms of humanity, is responsible for the entirety of the world. This entirety is undermined when responsibility in building the world according to the principles of freedom disappears, so this bisection and disunity of man and the world, expressed in Marx's terms, is revealed as a reification and alienation. These are two complementary processes through which man loses the best of his strength in the abstract relationship with the world. Kangrga perceives love as one of the most important aspects through which historical man actualizes himself in his freedom, and develops the concept under the strong influence of Hegel's thoughts regarding this phenomenon. The concept of time emerges as the fundamental concept of Kangrga’s historical and speculative thought. He ponders on the concept under a strong influence of Leibniz's philosophy, primarily of his problematising the issue of continuity and discontinuity. In the issue of continuity and discontinuity in relation to time, Kangrga perceives the essential difference between the traditional understanding of time as linear and cyclical continuity that occurs in accordance with the laws of nature, and the modern, historical concept of time stemming from understanding that time is a horizon of man’s creativity and freedom based on the principle of discontinuity. Discontinuity as an essential property of the modern concept of time means a breakthrough of the given and final being as the natural given, and in this sense it represents a point in Kangrga’s criticism of philosophy as metaphysics. Speculative thinking through and determining the concept of time was established in the philosophy of classical German idealism, where the problem of time becomes one of the central issues through which the man is pondered on the horizon of historicity. Speculativeness in reflecting on time is inherent in establishing the deepest connection/ identity of time and praxis that has its origin in the spontaneity as creativity. The research has shown that, through the problematisation of the phenomenon of time, Kangrga develops the concept of imagination as the basic idea of speculative thinking. Time understood as an undergone and lived through moment of historically already formed interior of the subject, implies the possibility of imagination which just by the utopian principle enables man to establish the world through creativity. Imagination (imaginatio) opens the very possibility of a historical world, which points to the utopian and revolutionary dimension of the concept. Creativity represents to Kangrga the true horizon of time within a historical world. In the problematisation of time, Kangrga is strongly influenced by philosophers who have pondered the phenomenon of time in the dimension of historical thinking: Ernst Bloch, Henri Bergson, and Martin Heidegger. Also visible is the concurrence of Kangrga’s speculative pondering of time with the trends that appeared in the early 20th century science. A valuable example in this regard is the German physicist and Nobel laureate Werner Heisenberg who in his work titled Physics and Philosophy shows that physics as a science may contain a speculative interpretation of the problem of time and the world. By setting the thesis that man influences the natural laws, and is not merely a passive observer of those laws, Heisenberg introduces the speculative principle into science. The concept of re-evolution is derived by Kangrga under the strong influence of the philosophy of Marx and Fichte, with particular emphasis on Fichte’s concept of Tathandlung (effective action). Re-evolution represents the creative principle of discontinuity, the necessity of man to produce one’s own evolution, which appears as the ceaseless establishing of a historical world according to the laws of freedom. Re-evolution as a concept appears in the identity with the concept of possibility=future. Marx's influence on the development of the concept of re-evolution is evident in the definition of man as a being of a genus who is, because of his insufficiency, simultaneously an absolute ontological openness and possibility of transforming nature into the world (necessity into freedom). The demand for the destruction of metaphysics stems from Kangrga’s establishment of the fundamental speculative principle: to be is constituted by being generated in the historical process, and it is the absolute openness and possibility=future. This speculative principle also reveals the possible answer to the question as to how metaphysics and speculative thinking differ: the fundamental difference between traditional philosophy and speculation is contained in the concepts of praxis and practice. This difference is also contained in the very formulation of the question posed by speculative thinking as opposed to the metaphysical presenting of a problem. Speculation asks according to what is an object possible, indicating that this thinking replaces substance with the productive principle of the creation of reality according to man. The question “By what is something possible?” establishes the identity of a subject and an object, of man and the world. Speculative thinking still remains in the sphere of philosophy, as a relationship of thinking towards being, which is a work and processuality. The value of this thinking is to point to the possibilities of man and the world, as well as enlightening the awareness of man as a humanum, or the humanum as man, but it remains within the realm of philosophy. Nonetheless, Kangrga managed to bring about seriousness to speculative opinion in his lifetime: that truth of thinking is necessary to affirm daily and persistently through one’s own ethical/aesthetic actions was Kangrga’s kind of life/philosophical credo which could suggest the very sense of speculation as a thinking which gained a practical dimension. This life credo of Kangrga that the philosopher must through his own thinking and life defend the highest spiritual values of man, leads to his sharp criticism and confrontation with the schools of thought in philosophy, which are in fact a negation of philosophy given that they negate the spiritual values of man as humanum. The radical criticism of philosophy as metaphysics is not a demand in Kangrga’s speculative thinking for the abolition of philosophy, but rather for the abolition of ideological structuring of life and thinking. This ideological structuring takes place today within and according to the laws of capitalist mechanism, which Kangrga considers inhumane and anti-utopian. By restoring philosophy to its speculative source, Kangrga wants to bring back to philosophy its humanistic sense. Accordingly, speculation remains within the scope of philosophy, however it can be said that this is a thought with a strong humanistic and enlightening character. Speculative thinking also poses the question concerning the possibility of establishing a different philosophical system than the one that is present in traditional philosophy. The problem of possibility of relations between speculation and system arises from the speculative view that it is impossible to fix the being as an ontological category. In metaphysical thinking, a philosophical system implies the enclosure and completeness of thinking as a reflection of the fixed reality. Kangrga raises the question how to, through a system, intellectually express = fix historical processuality as a continuous production of the new. The problem of the system in Kangrga’s speculative thinking is inseparably linked to the question of the relation between truth and reality: the realisation that the world and reality are not a given and ontological fixity which we only realise, represents a speculative dimension of transcendental philosophy. This turn about in pondering the relation between truth and reality represents the opening of historical thinking which perceives man as a self-conscious being who reaches his own truth through the act of producing being. Creativity, which in Kangrga’s opinion is placed as the central issue, is the most authentic form of man’s holistic practice. Kangrga defines creativity as an established identity of self-understanding and free action that has its origin in imagination (imaginatio). Creativity represents a dimension of permanent selfunderstanding, self-development and self-establishment of the historical man and his world. This identity is expressed as the fundamental principle of Kangrga’s speculative thinking. Kangrga finds in Kant's concepts of spontaneity and the primacy of practical reason the very possibility of speculative consideration and establishing the concept of creativity in identity with praxis. In the course of that derivation, the key concepts of Kangrga’s thinking are expressed as temporalisation, imagination, world and re-evolution. To Kangrga, the fundamental speculative principle that practice precedes being and opens/sets being in line with the utopian=futuristic principle as establishing the horizon of humanity, represents the starting point of the criticism of philosophy as metaphysics, and of the contemporary capitalist world. Speculation is historical thinking that demands the expanding of the creative essence of man as humanum. The research has shown that Kangrga’s understanding of speculation is original in comparison to all other conceptions of the term. Particularly significant aspect of Kangrga’s speculation is poietic=artistic practice that he favours over other forms of practice and singles out as the utopian source of production of the world. In that respect, the creativity represents the only possible response to the alienation of man, and the necessity of acquiring selfawareness in the productive=creative essence of man. To Kangrga, speculative thinking also expresses a radical criticism of capitalism as anti-historic and anti-utopian actuality that terminates space and the possibility of the production of man, spirit and culture. The true character of speculation is expressed in criticism of capitalism. Kangrga has shown that speculative thinking cannot be a theory on the existing, but rather, at least in its basic orientation, it represents devising of the world which would exemplify the horizon of humanity. Due to its basic orientation and intention, it is revolutionary thinking, as it demands a change of the very foundations of the existing world in the spirit of Marx's thinking. By persistently advocating that what is human and that what is (in the future) better than what is (now), Kangrga managed to defend his own speculative position, which could otherwise be subjected to criticism that as thinking it remains grounded in theory. In this respect, Kangrga will indeed be remembered as the last of the “Mohicans of Marxism”, in the cognitive and active struggle that the world should be permanently transforming and being created by the measure of man and of his sense and dignity. In his criticism of philosophy as metaphysics, Kangrga endeavoured to defend philosophy itself from its alienated and ideologised forms.

Item Type: PhD Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: Milan Kangrga, speculation, revolution, re-evolution, praxis, time, world, responsibility, love, creativity, classical German idealism, Karl Marx
Subjects: Philosophy
Departments: Department of Philosophy
Supervisor: Veljak, Lino
Additional Information: Poslijediplomski doktorski studij filozofije
Date Deposited: 05 May 2017 10:53
Last Modified: 05 May 2017 10:53

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