Does the theory of general axiology have axiological implications?
In the generic sense we have sketched an eschatology (the “switcharoo”) out of a pedagogical scenario of what “getting to general axiology” look like. This pedagogy was illustrated with delirant heavenlike visions meant to convey both its infinite worthwhileness and its boundless cost — a valuation of that could only be afforded by a “conspiracy”. But to a theory-minded person, eschatology is a beautiful place to lose the plot: it gives and keeps giving countless technical nooks and crannies to explore and polish without ever being bugged by quable (pfft!) problems of reality.
So back to the island with something more specific — does general axiology have ethical implications?
Yes, but we should remind the weary reader of the unusual sense that the language of logic has acquired over out project. Our first coup was to decouple truth from logic, making it indefinitely situated in such a way that it doesn’t belong to a person or a proposition anymore. This liberated logic for (aren’t you tired of this word?) technical purposes; in this way we’ve both vindicated and subverted Hubert Dreyfus’ profoundly wise méfiance of logic-based Artificial Intelligence by evicting it from the “truth” signifier and sending it to the salt mines of quability theory.
In the structure provided by this displaced, enslaved logic (I want to use “q-logic”, but fear going overboard with unreadable Star Trek-like lingo), the theory of general axiology is formally predicated on the “Heidegger story”. Of course, almost nothing of the Heidegger story is actually found in Heidegger or in Heideggerean schools; it refers to something grounded on the quability conditions of a metaphysics of the Situation that, we argue, is satisfied by both Graham Harman’s and Hubert Dreyfus’s (very different) accounts of the Dasein.
The upshot is that by the coherentist-epistemological powers of frame axioms (the pack mules of truth-rain), general axiology implies the Heidegger story, truth-rain, and the Tarski story of truth rain (which is also not to be found in Tarski). We’re retreading ground here, but reiteration is often useful.
[Some loose ends remain: how can the “epistemological powers of frame axioms” q-logically imply the frame axiom structure itself? To the extent that these powers are characterized to be “coherentist”, by explicit construction; may there also be something more subtle in the recursive machinery of frame axioms? This is only to raise awareness of how rough this whole thing still is.]
Now, despite all of the rhetoric associating truth-rain with satisfiability algorithms, its basic presentation to the irreducible concreteness of the Situation that engulfs us is existential. ITruth is overpowering and uncaring and dares us to “do or do not” (there is no “try” without consequence…). This has also been said before, but now flows more neatly from an organized recap: truth is first and foremost an ethical choice: you can expose yourself to it, walk in truth and make love in truth and write in truth and die in truth; you can also hide. In this context every epistemology from Hindu dialectics to Bayesian probability is a heuristic. The best heuristics are loosely attached to the ethical mandate that users expose themselves to being wrong, to being pelted with rocks by small monkeys they didn’t exist in their calculations. To being ridiculed. To worship the wrong God, maybe. To enjoy the consequences.
The ambient conditions of truth are constraints on the Situation. Because you are enmeshed in the Situation, they are also constraints on you. But these truths are not “in you”; therefore you can’t “say them” or express any kind of proposition that can be assigned a truth-value. Therefore all propositions are performative. The proof, in it most sublime mathematical sense, is in the pudding; the truth of (Newtonian) gravity is in the falling apple. In this way your utterances and dreams and random lascivious thoughts are all interpretations (in the sense of q-logic) of the ambient conditions.
Did we just arrive at “all utterances are interpretations of the truth”? Yes, but in a way that (to me at least) is awesome because it surfs over a swell of platonism without sinking in. The truth is internal to the Situation; it’s out there, but not in a realm of eternal kalokagathía. The truth is in side-glances and headaches and, yes, in mathematical theorems; it’s materially transported by frame axioms, but frame axioms are internal to the Situation. Clever, huh?
From this follows another valuable implication of the eschatology of general axiology. As the story goes, we were all sliding down a tunnel of increasing darkness that corresponded to a growing detachment from the Situation; as abstraction increased, we were able to make more and more utterances about the truth. Lascivious side-benefits aside, the great promise of general axiology was to be finally able to extricate ourselves from the truth and say it. But to utter the ambient conditions of truth we would have to be beyond “ambient” — in other words, extradiegetical. This is why the most lascivious scenarios of general axiology are not lascivious at all — you get to watch faux-lesbians, not to touch. Is this heaven? may ask someone; the ready answer is, of course, that in general axiology this becomes the bliss that you want.
But this dismissal bites back. General axiology can be nothing like the will-to-general-axiology. This is the bleakness in the heart of the switcharoo: at the moment of greatest theoretical understanding of general axiology it has to be yanked away from you. This is why I keep alluding to lascivious scenarios — in the ec-stasy of truth you get to “stand besides yourself” and watch the thing of the world understand itself. Hell and eternal damnation — I like this theory thing. Do I even buy into general axiology? Demonic confusion, contradiction, aporia, paradox.
What does it mean to say that “I like doing theory”? Surely liking something is an axiological claim; extending an idea originally proposed by Paul Samuelson in the 1930s, it means that my writerly praxis realizes (brings back from reality) a revealed axiology. A slightly different axiology would be consistent with a slightly different praxis — maybe we use a different font; maybe something more radical. Now, the revealed axiology is by construction implied by general axiology, but this more or less the same as saying that double-entry accounting is implied by the Yoneda lemma. The secret name of praxis is “specificity”; even in the absence of subjectivity (eg in a world populated by zombie strippers), praxis is. (Some people even take this to be a political program — things really do be like that, lieben heißt leben!)
Does this mean I am a revealed axiology? Not directly; a person’s behavior is incoherent, temporally inconsistent and sometimes even “fucked up”. In the Heidegger story this volatility is diluted; Dasein is a mass word and the Situation is something like a mereological structure on the Dasein — there’s no “me” nor “instance”, just facticities plugged into facticities (and facticities aren’t realizable). But if we ever want to talk about the practical affairs of men and groups and thought tendencies and sexual fetishes and ideologies, we need some structure — some dotted line where the cream cracker usually breaks.
This is why there is usually so much technicolor lacaniana littered over these texts. I like to preface discussions of Lacan by saying that psychoanalysis is probably not “true” (which in informal language means it doesn’t live up to scientific standards for a clinical theory), merely “interesting”. As demonstrated over Zizek’s works (and we’re content to let him keep doing the heavy lifting for us here), Lacan is fundamentally a reiterative, reimaginative theoretician of dialectics. In dialectics, Lacan and general axiology alike, there’s a passage to an absolute that can be speculatively revealed but must work itself out somehow. But in Lacan a number of colorful scenarios (the mirror stage, the signifying chain, the significance of the phallus, the four discourses…) have been already presented. Of course, to use them we must be wary of leaping from Lacanian subjectivity to revealed axiologies; it’s not clear that his subjectivities are anything like the subjectivity I am living through as I type these words.
But, to wrap up — to say “I like doing theory” says something in the asymptotic context of eschatology, yet so much more in the finitary context of working through axiologies. There’s a very real sense in which working towards larger and smaller axiologies makes sense. This is how conjugal rows are resolved: not by anyone winning, but by discovering the higher goals in face of which previous discontent is revealed to be petty (a marriage reveals an axiology, after all — it is a praxis, a something). This is how theory connects to something other than the pure scruple of apraxia — if it wants to survive.