Friday, June 29, 2007

The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race...

This is what Chief Justice Roberts said yesterday in Parents Involved v. Seattle School District. Many conservatives in recent years (as well as many liberals) have accused liberals of being too "idealistic," remembering the sixties and such struggles as civil rights, equality for women, etc. But no position could be more idealistic than the conservative Roberts in this utterance. Its tautological structure only shows that, for Roberts, what is not important is conceiving the relationship of discrimination on the basis of race to the actual instances of this discrimination throughout America. Rather, he would have discrimination relate to the idea of discrimination, such that when this idea is done away with--that is, when discrimination stops being the idea with which actual instances of discrimination are conceived and cognized in order to be countered--then those actual instances will stop, following the integrity of a purified American consciousness, an American consciousness that has expelled the idea of discrimination. In other words, Roberts thinks that once we do away with discrimination in our way of perception--once we are color blind--society will become color blind and those instances will just simply not occur. What he apparently doesn't get, along with all the other conservative idealists who make this same argument, is that this point of view guts the practical mechanism with which discrimination may be countered: consciousness of actual acts of discrimination. In essence, it says that discrimination doesn't actually exist: those who discriminate across America (Roberts scolds us) should simply know better, and we would be restored to the purity of the actual (non-discriminatory) state of America.
All this turns on the notion in the phrase that adjusting school admission quotas to accomodate diverse races is discrimination on the basis of race. This has long been the argument of priveliged white students. But even if it is admitted that this adjustment is an act of discrimination, then what admissions act would be free from this classification? Roberts saw these as discriminatory acts because they were not part of a larger program to promote diversity: they simply looked like they were implemented with the idea that admitting minority students in itself was a good thing. Fair enough, but common sense alone tells us that admitting minority students as if it were good in itself is a viewpoint shaped by the consciousness of a racist past: even if these acts counter discrimination with "discrimination" (the quotas), they are precisely not discriminatory because they went into effect in order to remedy past discrimination of minorities! By dislodging them from the history which made them appear in the first place, Roberts makes them seem like the same type of discrimination that appears in the first part of his sentence--actual discrimination. Meanwhile, this "discrimination" (the quotas) is actually only the practical implementation of what I just called the consciousness of actual acts of discrimination: it is the only way of actually implementing a policy in America to combat discrimination. This consciousness is merely an awareness of the discriminatory history of the United States. It is what these conservative idealists like Roberts seek to eliminate. But because it is a consciousness that is not merely rooted in ideas, because it is a consciousness that has been shaped by those actual acts of discrimination and oppression and holds on to their actuality even in the present, a merely ideological attack cannot erase them. Nor can a demand for this idea to be a purer idea, to remove its ties to actuality--which is what Roberts in this sentence essentially advocates--nor can this demand effect anything than blindness to reality.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A recent op-ed on Guantanamo...

Morris D. Davis' Op-Ed in the New York Times yesterday was disturbing, to say the least. One should view it as an example of what Slavoj Zizek said in his own recent Op-Ed on torture--not because there is torture at Guantanamo, but because Zizek argues that there is a "normalization" or tolerance of policies that necessarily lead to activities like torture rampant in American discourse. We wouldn't consider fify years ago whether torture was acceptable or not in any US-operated prison, he says. Now, we do. And this consideration, this allowance of disgusting ideals into discourse is what prompts their tolerance: those who are beyond morality (those who no longer think about torture as an issue but merely as a deed to be dutifully carried out) coopt moral discourse into considering their position in order to respond to it. Thereby their (what we would call) amoral position is rendered legitimate, rendered as a reflection on morality. And this is enough to undermine morality in itself simply because their position just isn't moral--it doesn't concern itself with the same morality. It should be noted that Zizek does not conclude we should shut these "amoral" others up, but that we should mark their speech as of another morality--thus their position within discourse can be accurately discerned, and their ability to coopt ours becomes limited.
Regardless of whether Zizek's view is right or not, what becomes interesting about this is that we can make sense of an article like Davis'. Through what seems a cynical viewpoint at first, Zizek leads us eventually to the point where we can go beyond him and can assert that this "normalization" of amoral issues is merely the effect of people like Davis trying to crush dissent or honest debate on the issues of torture and (what is more important) rights generally. Witness Davis' attempt to quash debate on accusations that prisoners at Guantanamo are tried using hearsay evidence:

There is no ban on hearsay among the indespensible rights listed in the Geneva conventions. Nor is there a ban on hearsay for the United Nations-sanctioned war crimes tribunals, including the International Criminal Court, the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The Nuremberg trials also did not limit hearsay evidence. Simply stated, a ban on hearsay is not an internationally recognized judicial guarantee.

Besides the utter insanity of the comparison between a Guantanamo prisoner and Adolf Eichmann that the reference to Nuremberg (half a century ago!) invites, what is happening here is that Davis is normalizing a point of view that is hostile to basic human rights by subordinating them to the coherency of his portrait of Guantanamo. This is a throwaway paragraph. But it does the dirty work of insinuation, of degradation. The subject matter of the article itself--Davis' equally insane implication that because the conditions of the prison at Guantanamo are excellent, it makes detaining an enemy combatant there (who has not been given a chance to say whether she or he was wrongly accused until the belated event of her or his trial) is in compliance with any common-sense idea of legality--this subject matter is completely tangential to these remarks on hearsay: in the article, Davis has just made his point that hearsay is (supposedly) not admitted into trials of detainees. Why speculate on whether the admission of hearsay in a trial is an internationally condemned practice?
Simply because it buttresses his position. The insinuation is that you are wrong for questioning the United Stats on the issue of the legality of Guantanamo, and that, furthermore, you are wrong about your own knowledge of internationally recognized human rights. In short, your common sense is wrong--any revulsion you might have to hearsay itself is suspect. Regardless of the validity of this perspective it is obvious that the effect is to call into question whether hearsay should be a right of a detainee if she or he wouldn't get it at Nuremberg--and merely by considering this question, we are already on our way to accomodating things like torture. But what doesn't matter here are the effects of whatever side you are on: for Davis, and for many people in politics nowadays, it seems that the question of what side you are on is more valuable. This is the scary thing about the article: in an effort to defend the Bush administration's policies, it is willing to attack even our most common-sense values.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Village Voice and the unconscious

I'm constantly surprised at just how goddamn good The Village Voice is. This week, a great article on an interesting blindness most people have about sexual orientation: pretty much no one thinks that kids are gay, yet we refer to being born gay to combat the stupid argument that it is a choice, and we emphasize the importance of coming out later in life. Why do we preserve the gap? An example of, among other things, ideology: whenever there is this constant blindness to an aspect of an issue or a condition of society, wherever there is surprise when it is mentioned, such that an article like this becomes an "expose" of sorts, we can be sure that we've hit society's unconscious.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The difference between Derrida and Lacan...

...revolves solely around the issue of Being. Derrida attempts to specify the truth of Being or what it is, while Lacan attempts to specify how to conceive this truth of being, how to comport oneself to what it is such that one can then (if one wants) specify what it is.

Thus, this difference is also the difference between "deconstruction" or post-metaphysical philosophy, and psychoanalysis: philosophy specifies the truth of Being, while psycohanalysis makes beings ready to live towards Being.

Heidegger in his Letter on Humanism distinguishes both paths quite clearly: the destructuring or deconstruction of metaphysics as thinking the truth of Being focuses on the event, das Ereignis, of the specification of Being suddenly giving itself from Being itself, while comporting oneself towards Being means, essentially, acting ethically or culling from the truth of being laws that will allow oneself to live towards it. Both of these approaches Heidegger specifies as thinking Being somehow. Furthermore, he specifically specifies that these modes of thinking Being in its truth merely focus on two aspects of how Being is what it is: they thus both make up, if they are combined (how this is to be done is up for grabs), the most primordial way of thinking Being. These two aspects are unconcealment and concealment. Being as unconcealment is specified by Derrida, while comporting oneself to Being as concealment makes up the task of psychoanalysis. Each in turn opens itself up to the other: Derrida's specification of unconcealed Being opens itself up to the realm of Being in its concealment, while Lacan's psychoanalysis that orients someone towards concealed Being effectively orients her or him towards the truth of Being or unconcealment. Thus the fundamental concepts that both employ, différance and the Real, each constitute this "opening up" of their work to the other side of Being: différance rightly specifies the truth of Being as the difference between unconcealment and concealment, or presence and non-presence (this primordial difference, which, because it specifies the truth of Being, is before any difference we commonly know as a difference, is différance), while Lacan determines the Real as what for a being, if she or he lived it in its unconcealment, would break them, and yet as what essentially constitutes them and always constitutes as beings (indeed, the Real could be said to be lived différance). What this all comes down to is this: anyone who opposes a "modern doctrine of the subject" that both these thinkers paved the way towards to Heidegger's conception of a being (in relation to Being) is full of shit and doesn't know what she or he is saying. Until we have experienced how both Derrida and Lacan culled their respective thought from the thought of Heidegger (who indeed could not have developed it enough, and enough in each of these directions), until we do this like the French indeed did within their academies, we cannot legitimately get away with this opposition. This is because if we were to make this opposition, we would have to be saying that beings are something essentially different than what Heidegger said they are. And merely renaming them "subjects" as horrible pseudophilosophers within the American academy have done, could never actually bring this new being about--all they are doing is trying to find a shortcut to what in France resulted from this experience (the subject). Fortunately, the best thinkers here do experience this, and experience it rigorously. An example of a pseudophilosopher can be found here (see "Lacan's Marxism, Marxism's Lacan").

Thursday, June 14, 2007

How Marx's theory of history came to be, part 1

Looking at Marx’s early writings from the period of 1844-1846 (the Economic and Political Manuscripts of 1844, the Theses on Feuerbach, and The German Ideology), we can see that, apart from whatever else may be pursued in them, Marx’s thought unifies around the basic task of trying to conceive of a perspective from which societies can be viewed that is not fundamentally Hegelian. That is, the general thrust of his thought centers around the task of viewing social phenomena without reference to the basic conception of reality (or what exists) that was espoused by Hegel. To do this, he uses ideas from Feuerbach’s The Essence of Christianity, published in 1841, through will radicalize these ideas to the point of overthrowing them, and, with them, the Hegelian conception of reality—this is why so much of the work from this period deals with Feuerbach as well as with the “German Ideologists” or Left-Hegelians who were developing positions similar to Feuerbach’s. This reality in Hegel was vaguely defined as Spirit or Geist, which had, in the later works of Hegel, seemed to be something increasingly idealist in nature. This reality in Feuerbach, then, was asserted to be material, or natural, in order to salvage what Feuerbach saw as the potential of the Hegelian dialectic. Thus, in the writings of Marx in this period, we see a fine distinction being made about the nature of reality in contradistinction to these two thinkers. The result will be “historical materialism,” a type of reality that is more rigorously materialist than Feuerbach precisely by opening itself up to the Spiritual potential of reality (which manifests itself as history) found in Hegel. This is the reality that we find asserted in The German Ideology and allows the development of the theory of societies that we find in Communist Manifesto. Much later, it will provide the foundation for the reflections on the nature of the commodity in the early parts of Capital. Here, we will provide a brief genealogy what exists for Marx with reference to these early writings.
The nature of reality for Hegel, as we said, was Geist—a word that we translate as “Spirit” (the translation of Geist as “Mind” is unanimously in disfavor among philosophers), but which has an incredibly important and incredibly specific sense for Hegel. What is this sense; what is Geist? Well, to get a flavor for it, we can say it is a lot like the Foucauldian conception of “discourse:” a set of practices that coagulate and structure themselves to operate in a particular manner, the manner of power (i.e. they exert power upon something, form it, shape it, etc.), and in such a way that this structuring and this operating is their power itself (it includes this forming, shaping force in its being structured in this particular way). Leaving the comparison to Foucault behind—for the language of power is a precise language that Hegel does not conceive—we may more precisely characterize Geist—the nature of Hegelian reality—as the totality constituted by all world practices, or, expressed differently, all the actions (Tun) within the world of beings that generate meaning for that world of beings.
What do we mean by meaning? Well, any action that justifies the existence of the world of beings to itself, anything that answers the question “why is there a world of beings instead of nothing?” Geist is the totality of the answers to this question manifesting themselves in actions. Now, these meaningful actions have to be actions that have occurred for Hegel: he is not talking about any mere potential that the world has to give itself meaning when he talks about Geist. This is a crucial distinction we will return to soon when considering Feuerbach. It is also the distinction that makes Hegel break from Kant, as well as from much of the Christian tradition: for Kant and many Christians, the meaning of the world is guaranteed to exist irrespective of any actions of beings within that world of beings—namely, in God. Because God created the world of beings, what happens there will always in a sense carry the meaning that God gave and gives it in His creation of it—the question as to why the world of beings exists instead of nothing is always already decided in advance or a priori (as Kant declares) by God, who knows or keeps in reserve (outside the world of beings) the answer. For Hegel, however, there is no meaning outside the meaningful actions of beings themselves, and the accumulated mass of these meanings.
Thus, we can say that what is Geistlich is history, actual acts that have justified the existence of the world of beings to itself over the course of time. Geist, then, is a sort of sediment containing the various meanings that have existed for beings, which hardens and forms into layers one upon another like in a wall of rock that exposes the crust of the earth. The layering moves upward and culminates in the present time. So too does the history of meaning move towards the meanings the world of beings now has. In fact, we specify this present state and get at the nature of Geist participating in our present when we use the phrase “the spirit of our times.” This “spirit” is what we can determine at any particular moment in history as the general thrust underlying all meaningful action; what underneath everything is the general thrust of a period of time. Geist itself then is this general underlying thrust of the entirety of beings throughout time—it is the “spirit of the times.” But Geist or Spirit is not merely a compendium of various moments in history when a “spirit of the age” comes on the scene: it is also the development of these various meanings, the meaningful actions that change how meaning is possible—in fact, these are the most important events of history and the most Spiritual for Hegel. So the geological illustration we just used breaks down: it is not as if meanings of particular instances in time are self-contained layers piling up upon one another, for these layers influence each other, mix—such that even the first and deepest layer can combine with the top one. The layers need to be fluid to be conceived correctly, in such a way that each top layer that gets added takes up all of the lower layers and reasserts them as themselves in its own existence on the top of all of them. The meaning of any particular layer, then, is never fixed (as a side note, this is why we cannot use Freud’s Wunderblock or “Mystic Writing Pad” as a replacement for our metaphor, because it preserves all previous layers as they were when they first were etched in); it can be taken up into the reality of the present day because it is that reality (it constituted it), and therefore can be changed in its ability to mean or be real based on the present reality—in fact it could just as well become meaningless or lose its reality based on the present.
In sum, then, reality for Hegel is the meaning of the world of beings that it has for itself. This meaning is also the history of meanings that have paved the way for the present meaning or “spirit of the time.” Finally, this meaning is brought forth or comes to exist only in any meaningful action in the world of beings—the meaning of the world of beings is not guaranteed for it in some separate sphere but only comes about among beings in the world and their meaningful actions.
We said that for Hegel, Spirit comes into being through practices, through action. Feuerbach’s contribution to this genealogy of Marx’s idea of reality that we are tracing comes in here, when in The Essence of Christianity he begins to ask about what types of practices or actions indeed constitute meaningful or Spiritual action for Hegel in very frank and basic ways. Are these “practices” ideas? That is, does having a conception suddenly change the development of Spirit? Or are they only “potential” actions? Similarly, are actions in the world of beings material actions? And, if so, since the whole world of beings is material, do all actions then mean? In short, if I kill a man, is this a “practice”—is it meaningful—in that it was done with a knife and my two hands, or is it meaningful in that it was intended and done with hate?
Similar questions were and are directed towards Foucault and his idea of discourse. But, like Foucault, Hegel was not eager to specify any clearer answers—and this left his followers frustrated. For Hegel, it essentially came down to this: both an idea and a material event in the world could constitute an action, so long as they altered the nature of Spirit—that is, what is meaningful and what, as what is meaningful, determines what is able to be meaningful. So long as the history of meaning was taken up and reasserted as meaningful or unmeaning in some way, it was a Spiritual action or practice. Spirit was therefore not identical with any particular being—no single person could be elevated to the position of Spirit because she or he could not possibly, in their determinate human being, exist as the totality of history. Spirit could only be a part, a consequence, an unintended effect of a personal action; indeed, this is why Hegel says that Spirit effectuates itself via “the cunning of reason:” reason, which is Spiritual and not personal, makes an act informed by what we normally call “reason” that issues forth from a person suddenly have the unintended effect of actually being rational, insofar as it brings about a meaningful Spiritual consequence or instantiates Spirit in some unforeseen piece of the act. It is clear, then, that Spirit could thereby be interpersonal, residing somewhere between two beings, like in a significant fight between a worker and a master that leads to a revolution of the workers: the Spiritual act is not the worker nor the master, but the fight. But if this was the case—i.e. that Spirit can be, as well as an effect of a being, an effect of more than one being residing between them, as it were—if this was the case neither was Spirit absolutely identical with any particular feature of interpersonal society: Spirit was not the custom of language, or the idea of free will, or practice of revolution, or any particular cause or instrument that allowed a group of beings to form themselves and their society around meaning, i.e. Spirit itself. We begin to sense the frustration of the Hegelians when confronted with such an elusive reality.
But the perfect concrete example of what Spirit is and how remarkably present in the world it can be, as well as what it is not manifests itself in the oft quoted saying of Hegel about Napoleon: “Napoleon was Spirit on horseback.” The way to understand this phrase is not to construe it as “Napoleon was Spirit itself, there, just happening to be seated on horseback.” This would make the totality of Spirit itself a thing. The totality of Spirit itself is only Spirit—this is why Hegel has to take over the word Geist from its popular use and make it signify something particular and idiosyncratic that is only found within his system. Rather, this phrase should be understood by construing it as “Napoleon was Spirit-on-horseback, Spirit participating in the act of Napoleon sitting on horseback.” This does not detract from the sublime conjunction of the high and the low that occurs with Spirit, namely the fact that Spirit is there and actual in the body of Napoleon on horseback—i.e. Spirit is a thing. But it shows that, as we said before, the totality of Spirit itself is only Spirit, is not able to be confined itself within one particular piece of the world of beings, though it is within it. Spirit is only is the basis and the result of this piece. Again like Foucault, this view led to charges of idealism, especially as the later works of Hegel took only the Spiritual view of society, psychology, nature and other subjects: many were outraged that Hegel viewed things as real only in the aspects that supposedly possessed this interpersonal, non-personal, elusive, frustrating stuff he called Spirit. This was not the case with the Phenomenology, which led a reader gradually to understand the Spiritual view of things from the regular, un-Hegelian perspective. But above all, the question for those like Feuerbach remains—what type of action is Napoleon here? What, more specifically than meaning, can allow us to distinguish another type of Spiritual act in the future if we see one? Hegel refuses to specify.
Unlike Foucault, however, despite this ambivalence, we already see that this conception of Spirit irreducible to a type of action indeed allowed Hegel remarkable specificity in what was considered meaningful Spiritual action: as we saw, an action was not Spiritual when it did not take up meaning and the accumulation of meaning in its unfolding. Elaborating on the consequences of this, we can see two main spheres of occurrences excluded from the realm of Spirituality. First, a mere happening, like the chemical processes within a leaf on a tree, was not Spiritual. It did not take up meaning but left meaning alone, and confined itself to a mere operation that would ensure its own growth. This is why we have to continually use the phrase “world of beings” when referring to the world that participates in Hegel’s Spirit: using just “world” would invite the assumption that the natural world, which for the most part leaves meaning alone, was meaningful. The Spiritual world is a world of beings, of things that exist in meaning. Indeed, Hegel called this sphere of what in itself leaves the issue of meaning alone and keeps to itself “nature.” Along with these “natural” types of happenings, there was also a second sphere of happenings that left meaning as it was, did not change meaning, like the death of the poor in the streets of Berlin. This was a mere fact: it occurred, but it did not alter anything within the Spiritual world of beings; it was a result of the changes in meaning that constituted the meaningful—such as the general opinion within Berlin of the poor, that they did not (like the bourgeoisie) work hard enough and thus deserved their poverty. If this were to change, and change because of a poor person dying in the streets, then the death was meaningful, was Spiritual. But as it was it just issued from the general formation of Spirit at that time. For Hegel, the question was not whether these types of actions should matter or not, but whether they genuinely contributed to the development of the world of beings in history. What was absolutely clear was that if they did not, then they were excluded from this history—the history of meaning.
Now, the best Hegelians, like Feuerbach and Marx, did not quibble with the question of whether Hegel was being idealist or not merely by invoking something interpersonal, elusive, etc. as reality, which was and still is the most prevalent and most banal criticism of Hegel. Rather they saw precisely these exclusions and what caused them as the foremost problem: in the end, it was not Hegel’s ambivalence towards specifying a particular type of action that would constitute Spirit and reality, but the specificity this ambivalence produced which tyrannized any attempt to analyze phenomena within the world of beings, any attempt to get at reality. How could one tell whether something was genuinely part of the world of meaningful beings or not? And were Hegel’s judgments as to what was meaningful anywhere near correct? Here the stakes are high, for if something was not deemed Spiritual, it simply did not need to count as meaningful. More: it did not really exist from the perspective of reality. With one move, Hegel made all the findings of natural science into things that were interesting, but did not count—because they related to a world of “nature.” Was this correct? Did the findings of science constitute no truth, nothing eternally meaningful in itself for beings, but the truth that resulted from their altering the ability of beings to mean—that is, for Hegel, that a certain modern model of science was invoked to solve a problem? Were there not natural truths, like gravity? Similarly, were there not truths about society and the operation of society? Is the poor worker dying in the street to be regarded forever only as a mere effect of the development of meaning? Hegel apparently could tell that these things did not matter, for he could divine what was meaningful. But for others who followed him, how could they legitimately see something that fell within these two spheres and tell whether it was meaningful or not? In the late 1830’s and early 1840’s, clear historical figures like Napoleon were gone, and the task at hand was precisely to divine, within the poor cities and in the sciences, what was meaningful!
This is where Hegel’s followers—most were former students of Hegel, still in their youth—split. The Right Hegelians decided to remain in a perspective that could see only “Napoleonic” forces, and simply looked around them and affirmed that these two spheres were as unimportant as Hegel said they were. This amounted to saying that the current state of their society was meaningful and did not need to change unless some larger, recognizably meaningful force came on the scene. These were mostly students of Hegel who had risen to positions within the German universities and taught the coherence of Hegel’s perspective to the next generation of philosophy students. As Hegel was celebrated within certain spheres of the academics, most notably in Berlin among Hegel’s old colleagues, and as these academics now controlled the ability to appoint younger faculty, these young Right Hegelians seeking steady positions within the educational system could espouse this view of Hegel in their dissertations and in their classes (that is, the view Hegel’s old contemporaries held—this is why Marx calls this young group the “Old Hegelians” in The German Ideology) and ensure themselves a post as well as success. It was not merely a matter of allegiances to a “doctrinal” view of Hegel that got these Right Hegelians the posts, either: affirming the current state of society had no problem of poverty was a political move—thus most of these Right Hegelians tended to be “Right” or conservative in their political views. The Left Hegelians, which included Feuerbach and, for a time, Marx, simply took the opposite approach, attempting to revise Hegel to be able to see into these two spheres. In doing so, each had to somehow address the first, which as we saw dealt with the position of “nature” in Hegel, in order to address the second, more interesting (to them) sphere concerning the state of society and its inadequacies—again we see this as a political move, a “Leftist” or liberal move.
To be continued...

Monday, June 4, 2007

What Heidegger gives us

The basic merit of Heidegger is that he develops a reading of the Greeks that is latent in all of Western philosophy, and only barely peeks out its head in Nietzsche. This is a reading that, essentially, focuses on the Idea in Plato as a development of the concept of Being, which whas developed by Parmenides. Thinking the Idea as Being means thinking against the tradition of interpretation of Plato which, since Plato, has thought of the Idea as something like the "standard," the ideal. Thinking of the Idea as a "standard" means conceiving of all things as relative to this standard, in the way that "we are all made in God's image," as is often said by the Christian scholars. The standard is something identical to itself, something that is factually existent as it is, and cannot change. This idea of the Idea as a "standard" eventually develops and reifies itself, moving farther and farther away from any notion of potential or power or activity and towards ever more refined and self-subsistent perfection in factuality through Christianity and through Descartes. Eventually it becomes something like "the formative conditions for subjective experience"--the "category" of Kant--when, as Heidegger points out, it was really never something that was definitively factual at all. Indeed, it could just have equally been considered a power (potere, in Latin--to be able).
In short, Heidegger revolutionizes (and still revolutionizes) philosophy in one fundamental thrust of his thought: interpreting the Platonic Idea not as a standard from which various "copies" derive, but as something that is what makes possible all meaning within the world. For Heidegger, the Idea is the supreme limit of the possibly meaningful, what makes the possible, to the extent that it is possible, possible. In short, it is actual (i.e. real) potential--or at least could be considered as this with as equal legitimacy as something like a "standard."