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Toward a Universal Framework for Understanding Harmony and Revolt:

the spontaneous as natural in Wittgenstein and Heideggeri

Whoever wants to act and has to act in a world determined by “the ideas”
needs, before all else, a view of the ideas.
- Martin Heideggerii


Spontaneous action requires no planning, no design, no concept of world and situation.

It is simply movement along a naturally given tangent. This is to be contrasted with freedom,

understood as the power to purposefully create one's own self and world, for one's self and

others. It is only in light thereof that one can live in harmony – actively in tune with a situation

as opposed to merely being at rest – and only toward such that one can revolt – moving from

a given situation toward a situation in terms of which harmony is possible.

In aiming for practical, realizable, and above all philosophical solutions to current world-

wide discord, I appropriate Wittgenstein's medium for visualizing situations. I believe that this

framework can be part of a practical solution to the seemingly spontaneous slide of our

shared world into unprecedented disorder. However, in order to employ this framework to this

end, further insights are required. For this reason, I turn to Heidegger, as he provides a

robust account of the process that Wittgenstein attempts to motivate in readers of the

Tractatus, transcendence


First, let's consider spontaneity, specifically the relationship between spontaneity and
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nature. Spontaneity, as Heidegger tells us, is a “cause of nature.” It is a natural force. There

is nothing distinctly human about being spontaneous. Spontaneity is not a virtue – it cannot

be perfected. Spontaneity is not freedom – one need not work to realize it. In fact, for any

apparent similarity, there is nothing free about spontaneity at all. Spontaneity is necessity,

albeit of a peculiar form.

Spontaneity is most clearly determined in the physics of chemistry. Spontaneity plays a

central role in considerations of chemical reactions. It marks the movement of any system

from a high-energy to a low-energy state, from relative instability to relative stability.

Spontaneity is everywhere – it makes our cars move and our water boil - regardless of this

presence being explicitly understood (“presenced” to steal a phrase from Heidegger).

This physical-chemical characterization of spontaneity opens the way to peculiarly

powerful philosophical insights. Consider, in this light, Plato on the form of a chair. This

popular (and I believe deeply misunderstood) example – Socrates, sitting, thinking, reflecting -

recalls the 'zero-point energy' of physical chemistry, a figure central to the laws of

thermodynamics. Zero-point energy is the lowest-energy state that marks every thing's

idealized state of ultimate relaxation. It marks the ultimate order of that thing, sans the

twisting and turning of heat and friction, empty of kinetic energy, wherein the only energy

remaining is the electronic energy of the free-flow of electrons between connected atoms.

Electrons are the information carriers of the molecular system. So, the zero-point represents

a condition of unfettered internal reflection. At the crux of the comparison lies the fact that in

the laws of physics as in the forms of Platonic metaphysics, such a state occurs only in an

ideal space. In the space of physical chemistry, in an ideal vacuum. In the metaphysical

space of the Platonic universe, in the “form” of an idealized chair – a soft-cushy resting place,

far from everyday stressors, essentially in a vacuum of relaxation, ideal by design. Neither
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are realizable. They are just useful ideas.

The physical characterization of spontaneity sheds light on the fact that spontaneity is not

“free.” Any movement toward stability and rest in some part of a system – such as toward

zero-point energy or toward some ideal chair - is only realized at the expense of the system

as a whole. This is an extension of what is commonly represented as the law of conservation

of energy, and is in fact the direct result of any closed system being what it is: closed. As one

part of a system reaches a relatively ordered state, the rest of the system becomes more

disordered to balance the movement. There is simply nowhere else for the energy to go.

Consequently, the movement to relative stability at the expense of a system as a whole is

only spontaneous insofar as the rest of that system can pay the energetic costs of this

movement. Where it cannot, such processes stop being spontaneous. Indeed, stop


The fundamental concept that underwrites the classification of any process as

“spontaneous” is “entropy.” Entropy is a measure of disorder, and the natural inclination to

greater entropy means that any “spontaneous” reaction involves an overall (system-wide)

increase in disorder. Or, in terms closer to our present focus, in “discord.” In any case, such

processes are not purely self-initiated actions proceeding in a vacuum. And, most

importantly, they are not expressions of freedom, properly understood. They are, instead,

properly understood as necessary “reactions” due to sufficient outside conditions acting

through pre-determined mechanisms, the result being that there is nothing free about them, at

all. Such are the consequences of the unfolding logic of the natural world.

In so far as human action proceeds according to the general pattern of spontaneous

processes, they are best not called “actions” at all. They are -as their natural counterparts -

“reactions” due to sufficient conditions, amounting to the sort of action-according-to-habit that

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Kant disqualified from properly “moral” action. Right action, ethical action, is never

spontaneous action. Spontaneous actions increase local order at system expense. Such is

war to preserve some tribally articulated “way of life.” Ethical actions increase systemic order

at local (individual) expense. Such constitute energy expended for the greater good, and the

most compelling thinkers in history have argued that a life spent so active, gaining sufficient

understanding to see it through, is the best life to live. Socrates, Mill, Kant, Aristotle,

Heidegger, Rousseau, and as I intend to show, Wittgenstein seem to think this way, and the

great social heroes of history, Martin Luther King, Jr., Socrates, Christ, the Buddha, seem to

act this way.

After all, it is in the construction of orders – not in the spontaneous movement to disorder

- that the situations in terms of which we all live and act become “better.” One way of

understanding this fact is that an increase in order brings a commensurate elevation in

energetic potential, in effect bringing more action paths into the realm of possibility, in effect

maximizing human potential, variously understood but especially poignant in terms of human

freedom. From relative order, relative orders are more easily established, simply because

one has the potential energy available to at least get the work started. Still, the construction

of higher orders is not a spontaneous act, even if the apparent pay-off in the construction of

said orders may appear to the uninitiated to be simply a preponderance of spontaneously

accessible action-paths. Accordingly, it is an expression of freedom to construct such orders

in the first place.

The scope of the current presentation prevents adequate discussion, but a few words in

introduction will add to the context of the issues to be covered more completely later on.

Socrates, in the oft neglected second book of the Republic, offers his own vision of an order

worth constructing, a City worth living in, a just city, one in which he and others reside in
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harmony with one another, with nature, and within themselves. In so doing, his companions

protest that he proposes a state of affairs better suited for subhumans, failing to notice the

virtue in the Socratic vision. The sense is that Socrates is looking backwards, while his

interlocutors egg him onward in the name of progress. However, in a real sense, Socrates is

proposing a sort of revolution, while his friends instead wish to proceed according to the given

logic. In other words, it is the old man Socrates who is the progressive, as without change, no

matter how far they travel, everything remains the same, and the result is predictably not so


It is from this point onwards that the Republic reads like an indirect proof against the

proposition that luxury and ease – the life of which Socrates' companions are accustomed – is

coextensive with justice. In the end, for all the talk of harmony along the way, the final plan is

for a city far from the vision one might assume is behind the original proposal, leaving the

reader, along with the interlocutors, in a state of disharmony within themselves. This leaves

open the possibility for a silent revolution, one reader at a time, so that vision of self and world

align with actions toward self and world. And, already, Plato has offered his view on the

necessary form of correction. Return to Socrates' program as outlined in the second book...


In this context, then, let's inquire into two central terms: What are “harmony” and “revolt?”

Etymologically, “revolt” derives from “revolvere,” "turn, roll back." “Revolve.” Rather than

a unidimensional push away from some established order – as in “bolt” or “volition” - revolt

points to the beginning stages of a cycle, a revolution. It is not simply change for the sake of

change. Revolt has an end-state as its object, whatever this may turn out to be. Practically

speaking, as the first step in revolution, the specific details of this end-state need not be
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specified. Revolt is a movement, a change, toward something, but it is the part of this

movement prior to the any particular realization. As such, it can be understood as a mode of

transition between harmonies, with harmony being its only essential limiting condition.

Revolt is not “rebel.” “Rebel” can be traced to “rebellare,” "to wage war against."

Rebellion is purely destructive. It is change for the sake of change. It has no order in mind

toward which change is directed. Rebellion is typified by the introduction of disorder –

disharmony - ranging from the adolescent testing of the necessity of certain given rules to the

more or less violent rejection of some state of affairs. Though it may when the dust settles

result in a sort of harmony - conditioned by chance – this harmony tends to be rather limited

in space and time.

Perhaps this is why the term “revolt” or “revolutionary” seems to fit with those who hold

the means for production, as in the popular revolt that is a grass-roots uprising. Such

movements are effectively self-sustainable. Meanwhile, “rebellion” and “rebel” tends to

associate with those who depend on others for their subsistence. Given this characterization,

Lucifer's story as represented in the Judeo-Christian myths is properly a “rebellion,” while that

of the Southern States in the U.S. Civil War a “revolt.” Accordingly, rebellion is spontaneous –

without a place to end up, but rather in it for the fight, alone - whereas revolt is not.

“Harmony” is ultimately traceable to the Greek, “harmonia,” and “harmonia” to “harmos,”

the Greek for “joint” as in “shoulder joint,” literally meaning "means of joining," and "to fit

together.” It is in terms of this original root that one speaks constructively of a person living in

harmony with her situation, environment or world, and of being in harmony with herself, her

words and actions. Harmony is a ubiquitous concept. Everything that is is an expression of

some form of harmony. Accordingly, harmony pervades our everyday speech. It is to

harmony that one implicitly refers when one expresses such sentiments as “This place suits
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me” or “That sofa fits my living room nicely,” or even “I am down with that,” for instance. This

is that a thing “belongs” where it is, how it is, and why it is, and this is enough to indicate that

that thing is in some constructive accord with its environment.

Harmony naturally precedes revolt. This adds to their relationship an unspoken sense

that, in every push there is a concordant pull towards a new home, whatever form that may

take. Harmony, thus, is spontaneous, or at least presents itself spontaneously when

conditions are right, though the conditions that make harmony a possibility, indeed that

entertain any actual harmony, are constantly and spontaneously degrading, and the provision

for any harmony to be realized by design is not spontaneous at all. Revolt is in no way

spontaneous. It is an expression of freedom, in every case actually directed work.

The relationship between harmony and revolt can be pictured.

Harmony, most easily visualized as having to do with the constructive confluence of

sounds, can be sketched as a wave, or as multiple waves, of which the most ideal is a sine

wave. In the modern era of information technologies, Internet, fiber optics, cellular phones,

music synthesizers and voice-transcription software, the relationship between waves, of

which sound is a basic example, and information in general is obvious enough: everything is

information. It is with this all-encompassing notion of “wave” that harmony takes up its full

scope. Thus, once again, one can be in harmony with her environment, her actions with her

statements, and statements can be in harmony with each other, with the context of their

utterance, and so on, as these can all be taken as forms of information (literally what enters

into a space and conditions that space, “in-” “-forming” it as the “it” that its is) and can all be

pictured as waves, standing, coinciding, adding, moving, and so on.

Meanwhile, waves can also be constructed from a revolving circle. Consider the

following diagrams in this light:

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Fig. 1: Simple wave, with labels (

Fig. 2: Unit circle in production of simple wave-form.

The waves, themselves, are created through revolution, in the two dimensional case an

oscillation, which can be simplified even to a greater degree as it is in binary logic into simple

“ups” and “downs” derived into “+” and “-,” “1” and “0.”

But, consider the case involving a system that is not so minimally-dimensional. What are

the conditions providing for the harmony, the establishment of a system-wide harmonic, in the

first place. A purely logical architecture comes by way of Wittgenstein, but a purely physical
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model can be appropriated from molecular models. In either case, the energetic highs and

lows are associated with the various transformations that a system undergoes (imagine a

molecule wiggling about in physical space with its strained states corresponding to the high-

points on the diagram, low-points with relaxed conformations, and so on). By way of the

second diagram, one can imagine a system in motion as it runs through its various

conformations in order, with (the order of) the resulting wave a result of (the order of) its

ongoing revolution. Where everything is in perfect balance, there are ups and downs but

none are unexpected, with none representing an essential change in the revolving system

responsible for its production.

In so far a human beings act according to these characterizations of harmony and revolt,

even the simple diagrams above are telling. The high points indicate high-energy (strained,

stressed, conflicted) states. The low points indicate states of rest. The energy to mount the

high-humps can come from either inside of or outside of the system in question. For instance,

a man may climb a mountain by train or on foot, of his own volition or under a slaver's whip.

In either case, at the end of the day, we all must sleep. But only when self-initiated with a

view to a higher end is this place of rest a product of revolt.


There is no doubt that Wittgenstein's Tractatus is one of history's great philosophical

works. And, as a work, it aims for more than to merely do something, it aims to get

something done. Even the name ”Tractatus” recalls a machine that does work, “tractor,”

appearing to be a synthesis of “tract-” and “apparatus,” with “tract-” coming from the Latin

“tractus” literally meaning "a drawing out or pulling," derived from the root “trahere” "to pull,

draw." Thus, even by cursory analysis, “Tractatus” is a working machine, an apparatus for
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pulling. The work that Wittgenstein aims to do with the Tractatus is to pull the reader against

the tide of a natural, comfortable, spontaneous embeddedness in the logic of the world as

given, upwards, to a view of the world from which ethics is possible.

Now, this bears some explanation, but one thing is clear: the Tractatus is not a simple

iteration of facts. It is rather an exposition on the orders of facts, with the purpose to expose

the participation of the subject in the creation of said orders. The promise here is that – from

such an understanding – one can then order these orders, rather than be ordered by them.

The promise is nothing short of freedom, as it is only from freedom that any potential for the

ethical emerges. However, realizing this freedom is hard work. Thus, the need for a pulling


Given this introduction, one surprising fact about Wittgenstein is that he maintained that

his Tractatus was phenomenology. Now, this immediately presents us with a problem. What

is phenomenology? Well, the best account of phenomenological method that I have come

across comes from J.N. Mohanty, from 1970. Here, he tells us that the phenomenological

philosopher is faced with a paradox, to simultaneously inhabit the world even as he describes

the experience with an eye toward explaining how it is that anything like it could be possible in

the first place. This paradox involves being subject to the conditions that one at once

objectively understands, conceiving as a particular of the universal, and “...this simultaneous

participation and transcendence ... in fact provides the key to phenomenological philosophy.”iii

Phenomenology is an attempt to picture – not things, in particular relation – but as

product of the processes out of which they emerge. The resulting picture is essentially

content non-specific. It provides for any possible experience. This makes the

phenomenological picture more than a picture, on the one hand, as it is the grounds from

which innumerable pictures might arise, and not a picture at all on the other, as it is not a
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picture of any “thing,” whatsoever.

Bearing this account with the Tractatus together in mind, it is clear that Wittgenstein was

doing phenomenology. The model that he provides describes how it is that things appear to

be the things that they appear to be, and his ultimate aim is to do so sans any particular

determination. He offers us a ladder with which we can “pull” ourselves to a point of view

whereby we can see that the world is the product of our own self-determination. This is

where ethics begins. It is hard work. And, as work, it is contrary to the natural movement of

of all things, people included, to slide spontaneously down into comfortable places of rest.

Let's see what Wittgenstein's method amounts to. First off, he is working in the medium

of natural language, but quickly opens potentially effective media to include any mode of

representation. “A proposition is a model of reality as we imagine it,”(4.01) but this way of

picturing is not practically different from other ways of picturing reality (4.011), most

importantly in the means of their application through what Wittgenstein calls the “law of

projection.”(4.0141) We “project” pictures into actions, thereby creating reality that mirrors the

picture.(2.02, 4.04) And, it should be noted, this “projection” goes both ways. One can as

easily create a score from a musical performance as perform music from a score.

The possibility of projection hinges on the fact that “propositions”(which can be any form

of representation of reality) represent possible “situations.”(2.202, 4.03) Note that situation

presupposes some situated subject. Propositions are tested against experience, in a sort of

ongoing “experiment.”(4.031) What is tested is the “tableaut vivant,” the living picture book of

names as it represents their namesakes and their relationships in so far as they compose

situations, that is in so far as they are the spaces in terms of which we live our lives. It is a

“great mirror” of the world.(5.511) And, as a book is a whole, even if we have only read a few

of its pages, so the situations that we imagine compose the world as a whole, wholly
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outstripping our ability to picture it, explicitly (even as the visual field of a mirror comprises a

whole, yet mostly lies outside of one's explicit recognition as he attends rather to some

particular aspect, typically having to do with himself and his appearance, within it).

It is in the space of the world as a whole that things exist – nothing shows up where and

how it is by accident! - as it is in the space represented by the media of our imagination that

the possibilities of things exist.(3.411) Imagination – and the world so pictured - is effectively

bound by the logical structure of propositions in terms of which it represents and is

represented, in terms of which thought proceeds, and this structure extends throughout

(thought and world).(3.42, 4.51, 5.123) Moreover, not only is thought so limited, but also

action is so limited – one cannot do, or at least think about doing, plan to do, what one cannot

in the first place think.(analogy, 4.463) So, the experiment that is the testing of propositions

against reality determines the truth/falsity not only of what we think and say, but equally

delimits all that may be done, indeed prefiguring the structure of the world which by this

structure limits possible actions undertaken therein, and possible worlds to sought through

such action, altogether.

Consider the following diagram as a simplified representation of the sort of framework in

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Consistent expansion

The regularity of interrelated

nodes results in harmony
between nodes, throughout
the system. Consistent
expansion proceeds in
maintenance of harmony.
Revolutionary expansion
proceeds with no such
Fig. 3: Wittgenstein's framework, simplified.

This is, in simple terms, a map of the world, and of those processes consistent with it.

Note that the nodes are set, and able to establish standing waves, harmonies, throughout.

This entire system, as such, is a sort of resonant box (albeit, in any realistic terms, a hyper-

dimensional one!)

What follows from this simple picture is that, living in accord with and embedded in

established harmonies, it is at least difficult to imagine alternative conditions and alternative

harmonies as anything other than disharmonies (without some means for their representation,

such as this one). Likewise, Wittgenstein explains that it is impossible for us to imagine an

“illogical” world, as to do so would be to try to picture something that cannot be pictured as

anything but “illogical.”

However, he does leave open a pathway to picture the un-picturable. Implicit in his

discussion, we can see that for us to try to picture something that violates the logical order of
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a space, we must change the logical order of that space in which we think.(by implication from

3.031, 3.032, 3.033, 3.0321) We must, as it were, think outside the box – rather than in 3

regular dimensions, in 4, or 11, for example. We must think a different sort of space. How?

There is only one way – expand the bounds of the thinkable, and this cannot come from

thought, alone. It cannot proceed form the inside, out. Indeed, one must first open to the

experience an “illogical” situation not as “illogical,” but as another logic -possible rather than

impossible - in order to introduce its conditions, attune one's self to such, and finally to be

able to think it as an “it” after all.

We must, in other words, “transcend” prior limitations. Now, what would this amount to?

The short answer is that one must apply the inverse of the law of projection – let the music

inform the score, for example – to the limits of experience – let experience inform the logic, for

example. And this means putting one's self in what may have been unthinkable situations, so

that one might, as a result, be able to think them. This process bears further elucidation, later


How is it that a transcendence of subjective experience can surpass the limits of the

world as a whole? Because one way in which the world is limited is by way of the subject,

himself. Wittgenstein tells us that “The subject does not belong to the world: rather, it is a limit

of the world.”(5.632)iv The implications here are twofold. One is that this limit can change.

The other is that the world belongs to us, and as our limits change, so does the world.

It is from the first implication that we can understand Wittgenstein's late assertions about


6.42 - So too it is impossible for there to be propositions of ethics.

Propositions can express nothing that is higher.
6.421 - It is clear that ethics cannot be put into words. Ethics is
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Ethics involves the subject, and nowhere in the picture of the world does the subject

actually appear.(5.633) Ethics involves what can and cannot be done, rather than what exists

and does not exist.v It involves relationships between things and the subject as he engages

with them, between subjects, and especially within a subject, himself (as in the person who

one is, and the person who one might become through action). These are not issues about

the world, but about something(s) outside of it - namely us, namely not an object suitable for

framing, lest the nature of this us as transcendent, and ethical, be denied.

From the second implication, a few things follow. First is that there need be a special

field within which the subject of the “subject” can be entertained. The subject and its

transcendental potential are not the object of the natural sciences, as these involve setting

limits to the thinkable, working from the inside, out.(4.114) The subject is the property of

philosophy (which is not part of the natural sciences, 4.111), which in the case at hand can be

pictured working from the outside,

This – inside of ourselves through philosophy – may appear an odd place to look for the

world. But, it is only in philosophy that the self becomes clear as “the metaphysical subject,

the limit of the world – not a part of it.”(5.641) And, it is only in the exercise of self-limitation

that the world becomes the world that it is:

If the good or bad exercise of the will does alter the world, it can alter only the
limits of the world, not the facts—not what can be expressed by means of
language. In short the effect must be that it becomes an altogether different
world. It must, so to speak, wax and wane as a whole. The world of the happy
man is a different one from that of the unhappy man.(6.42)

Through action – and note here that Wittgenstein is explicit, “good or bad,” pointing to the

ethical import of action – it is the “limits” of the world, the self that changes. As the self

changes, as a self, the world changes as a world. It is one for one, situated and situation, the

logic of the self on the inside, and the logical extension of this self throughout. It is in this
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way, in the philosophical understanding of self, that the world is understood, just as it is in the

ethical transformation of self that the world is changed. And, it is finally in this light that

Wittgenstein's closing words can be understood:

6.54 My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me

finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them,
on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he has
climbed up on it.) He must transcend these propositions, and then he will see
the world aright.

The limit (self) surpassing its limits (self) is “transcendence.” The picture that

Wittgenstein paints, thus, is a tool for transcendence, and thus for the proper appropriation of,

if not for the actual transformation of, the world, itself.


In light of the preceding, we should update our initial considerations of harmony and

revolt. First, Wittgenstein offers a convenient medium within which considerations of harmony

and revolt can be envisioned. One can be in harmony with his situation in so far as his

picture of his situation stands the test of his experience of that situation. Ideally, in light of

disconfirming experience, a self may alter his world picture, so that his world-view would

again be in harmony with the “reality.”vii

Now, one more point need be made in light of these results. The world to which one

revolts need not be imagined in great detail, but it must be imagined as a world. Whole. As

Wittgenstein tells us in 5.526 - “We can describe the world completely by means of fully

generalized propositions, i.e. without first correlating any name with a particular object.” viii We

need not specify where everything will be, and in what relation. The difficulty lies in seeing

the world as such, sans particulars, sans content, sans any predetermination besides that
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implied by the self conceiving it. The difficulty lies, in other words, in seeing the world

primarily ethically, rather than materially. And, it is transcendence that leads to this possibility,

as Heidegger will explain momentarily.

For now, consider once more Wittgenstein's analogy of the musical score. In any

composition, any number of notes might fit. But, only some contribute to a thing of beauty,

one musical movement rather than a series of intonations. And, though one may

spontaneously compile a series of notes, it takes a special vision to picture an arrangement

as a single integrated whole. One must rise above the series of notes, and see the whole

movement as a whole, first, albeit without every note pre-ordained. Add to this that

Wittgenstein equates ethics with aesthetics, and we are left with a striking implication: that

harmony is at the core of world construction, from self outwards, and that transcendence is

indeed revolt, as revolt aims for harmony, with revolution an ethical movement to not only a

“higher” self, but a better world. With harmony the fundamental consideration, the exact

placement of precise notes, as the precise placement of necessary things and the perfect

execution of right action, need not be pre-ordained. These things will happen, as a matter of

ongoing accord.ix

But, analogies can only take us so far. What is this thing, transcendence? How is it that

one comes to a view of the world as a whole, rather than as parts and locales? And, what

does any of this have to do with spontaneity?

Heidegger's assay of transcendence fits well with the preceding, allowing us to pick up

where Wittgenstein has dropped us off. Transcendence is “surpassing” limits. x It shares its

form with our initial assay of “revolt:” “Formally speaking, surpassing may be grasped as a

“relation” that passes “from” something “to” something.” xi What is moved from and to is one's

self: “Transcendence constitutes self-hood.” xii And, again consistent with the preceding
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discussion, this self-transformation is nothing short of world-making: “...[One's self]

transcends means: in the essence of its being it is world-forming...”, and “To transcendence

there belongs world as that toward which surpassing occurs.” xiii From this relation between

self and world emerges the possibility of freedom: “Surpassing in the direction of world is

freedom, itself.”xiv And, as it is of the essence of a person to transcend given limits in the

creation of the world in which one's self, and others, are situated, it is from this transcendental

ground that arises the possibility of ethics through the responsibility one consequently bears

for the creation of self and world, and thus due to the obligation one feels to maximize the

potentials of both “such that in the essence of [one's] existence [one] can be obligated to

[one's self], i.e., be [a] free [self].”xv Finally, it is from this unbound view of the world as a free

self, responsible in one's freedom and obligated to maintain it, that one comes to a single

unifying, undetermined yet “far from being arbitrary” vision of the world as a whole, echoing

our final considerations of Wittgenstein:

This wholeness is understood without the whole of those beings that are
manifest being explicitly grasped … in their specific connections, domains
and layers. Yet the understanding of this wholeness, an understanding that in
each case reaches ahead an embraces it, is a surpassing in the direction of

In this surpassing of the limits of self and world, in the unifying vision simultaneously held

above particular determinations yet yielding complete understanding of both in the fullness of

their potential, the world presents itself as – in typical Heidegger-speak – the “for the sake of”

which a person live and acts. “If … it is surpassing in the direction of world that first gives rise

to selfhood, then the world shows itself to be that for the sake of which [a person] exists.” xvii

Indeed, it is only from within the world, as such, that any action “for the sake of” one's self,

this, that, or another, is or ever can be initiated. The world consists in the objects of actions,

as well as their beneficiaries. And it is for the benefit, in the end of one's self, that anything is
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done, at all.

The “for the sake of” is the “for the good of,” with the world providing the who and what,

and the self limiting the how and why. It is this limiting how and why that motivates

transcendence. It is the limits of what can be done, for the good of one's self, the world, and

others that not only could be but should be surpassed. Thus, it is both from and toward the

world, “entrusted with having to be,” responsible for one's own life in and through that world,

that the unifying vision of self and world reduces to the possibility of realizing one's potential in

life. And thus, it is of the essence of self to surpass itself in th creation of the world out of

obligation to itself to remain free so that it can continue to do this very thing.

One must live. One must live in a world. One should live a life worth living in a just

world. It is only in the last case, the ethical, that any unified vision of the world as a whole is

necessary. And finally, it is only in light thereof, as the vision that is the product of

transcendence, that harmony – in the aesthetically articulated ethical sense, above – and

revolt – as a movement from one harmony to another – are possible.

Let's contrast these results with spontaneity. Heidegger likens spontaneity to “the

negative characterization of freedom,” a form of “causality,” by appearances “the beginning of

something by [the thing] itself.” xviii Spontaneity seems to be a kind of freedom, but it is not. It

lacks a “determinative cause lying further back.” xix The determinative cause that is the

difference is the “self” that is the beginning and end of transcendence. That is, spontaneity

does not proceed from the grounds of a self with a view to the world as a whole, self included.

It does not “reach out” and “embrace” the world in its wholeness. It only proceeds, from its

place, to a place in the world. There is no sense of the unity – indeed identity - of this place

with all others, no sense of self as self responsible for self and world that motivates

transcendence. Indeed, no transcendence, at all. Persons live spontaneously in the

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expression of the given, logical extensions of the norm, a local projection of a pre-given form.

Underscoring the difference, Heidegger recalls Heraclitus:

To those who are awake there belongs a single and therefore common world,
whereas whoever is asleep turns toward a world of his own.xx

Of course, this waking life isn't an easy one. It involves living in discord with the masses,

rousing them from their slumbers. It is not a “spontaneous” life. One doesn't just fall into it,

as one falls asleep. Indeed, “fallenness” is an especially important term in the Heideggerrian

lexicon, representing a state of ease in terms of convention. Fallenness is a natural condition.

Most people spend most of their time in a fallen state, and seek it when it has somehow been

interrupted. Fallen, a person chatters on about things that don't matter and that make no

difference (as they are effectively pre-determined as logical extension of the given), marks the

time of his life in days and years (rather than by effective influence toward a better state of

affairs), does what seems appropriate (rather than what is necessary), and in the end

measures success or failure in terms of the lack of disharmony between himself and the

“average” that is the standard of the faceless “they,” his fellow “man” (rather than in terms of

the effective discharge of his nascent - ethical, transformative – potential). It is easy. It takes

no special work or discerning vision to follow the herd.

As is well known, fallenness is the negative focus of Heidegger's basic project in Being

and Time. The positive focus is on the genuinely authentic life, that being a life lived with the

courage to have a conscience, to take responsibility for one's self and most importantly for

his/her world - to take up one's place in the history of one's culture, transform this culture

through discovery, thereby directing the movement of one's world along its historical

progression toward a world worth living in, a just world. The genuinely authentic life is, in a

nutshell, the life of transcendence as described above. It is the ethical life.

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This life is not measured in its comfortable closeness with the mean, or harmony with

convention. Rather, it is a life attuned to what might be, to higher possibilities, of which one's

own involves working to maximize those of others. It is a life of movement, on the way to

something through hard work and dedication. It reaches ahead, embraces the world as a

whole, and reaches back at once, transcendent, a “tractor” pulling the world up the steep

slope to a higher order. It is a life of difference, that makes a difference. A life in revolt, of the


Standing apart in revolt does not imply casting aside one's fellow man. Indeed, it is only

in the steady, hard ascension to wisdom that the needs of others can be kept in constant

view. In other words, one must maintain a certain difference from the mean in order to have

an eye on where it is going. The ethical import of this point of view bears a striking

implication. Revolt is not only a part of an ethical life. It is the ethical life. Heidegger puts

things this way:

And so the human being, existing as transcendence that exceeds in the

direction of possibilities, is a creature of distance. Only through originary
distances that he forms for himself in his transcendence with respect to all
beings does a true nearness to things begin to arise in him. And only being
able to listen into the distance awakens Dasein as a self to the response of
the other Dasein in whose company (Mitsein) it can surrender its I-ness so as
to attain itself as an authentic self.xxi

Listening differs from hearing. One must listen “for” something, or “to” something.

Hearing simply happens. It takes a lifetime of study, a lifetime of constant inquiry, into one's

self and into those around him that finally leads to the sort of wisdom which permits a person

to actually act toward let alone to realize this potential. One must know what to listen “for,”

who to listen “to.” One must, as Heidegger asserts elsewhere, “understand” in order to be

able to “listen.” And, one doesn't spontaneously understand, any more than one

spontaneously and by chance becomes a person worthy of reverence, living a life worth living
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in any philosophical sense. Accordingly, one does not spontaneously pull the world to a

higher order, any more than one can by chance anticipate the needs of all those around him

and to come. Ethical life is active. One must work at it. Or, put more appropriately, one must

work at it.

The differences between the life of spontaneity and revolt can be pictured.

In picturing the course of the non-spontaneous life, it would serve to recall the simple

wave illustrated in figure 1. Moving from fallen state in relative harmony to ever higher orders

of understanding, in effect puts the wave on an upward slope, with the difference in elevation

from start to finish a measure of the work put into the process. The pay-off is proportional to

the height of the ladder climbed, minus perhaps the cost to one's self to get there. The higher

one goes, the harder the climb. In picturing its opposite, one can simply imagine as similar

wave on a downward slope, with the pay-off the energy released as measured by the

difference in elevation from start to finish.

Of course, life is not a single slide or climb, but a series of them, performed in various

dimensions and to various ends throughout the course of life. The picture that emerges,

accordingly, is that of a stepwise progression, ladders up and ladders down. The life in

consistent climb, ascending in the right dimensions at the right times, reaches the heights of

human potential. The life spent otherwise, does not.

In comparing these pictures, two things stand out. First, on the way down, the leading

edge of every “trough” is lower, and thus the barrier set before the process is less, until at a

certain decline the barrier disappears completely such that transitional stabilities are so

fleeting as to represent no space for rest at all. Such a life is more shoot than ladder.

Second, on the way up, these same barriers to progress are higher.

Harmony presents itself as a mean between these two.

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As modeled by the simple standing wave, harmony represents a certain energetic

equilibrium. Spontaneously degrading, it represents an energetically exogenous process.

Energy pours out of the system. And, in rising upwards, it shows that energy must be put in.

This energy must come from somewhere, and in the preceding we have seen that it comes

from us.

Now, let's project the implications of the preceding discussion on the basic framework

from Wittgenstein as depicted in figure 3. Imagine that the nodes (A, B, C, D, …) establish

standing waves between them, the regular dimensions between them ensuring that the wave-

forms between each pair of nodes add constructively with those of every other pair.

Consequently, what is established is a system-wide harmonic. It is a world as a whole,

presenting itself as a whole in terms of this harmonic. Now, imagine that, for every type of

sound their accords a certain feeling, or mood. And, imagine that you have taken up the view

of the world that is the product of transcendence, having climbed Wittgenstein's ladder. It is in

accord with your mood that the world, undetermined but in no way arbitrary, presents itself as

a whole. Self and world in effect set up in resonance, and from these initial conditions that

are brought to the world through transcendence, the world into which one transcends is

always and already one's home. This is the metaphysics of harmony, the beginning and end

of revolt. Indeed, revolt is transcendence, a purposeful transcendence. It is the movement to

a better world not simply because this world can be better, but because it should be better.

However, few persons seem willing to spend a life working to build a better world. To

expend such energy, without guarantee of material success, is not a proposition which many

are even able to entertain. It is nonsense. Perhaps it is for this reason that transcendence is

most often equated with the mystical, the spiritual, the supernatural if not the non-natural or

flat-out fantasy. And equally, that the spontaneous life, burning the world at both ends and
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reaping the rewards for personal enrichment at the expense of all else and others, is the



Some final considerations.

What we have seen in both Wittgenstein and in Heidegger are pictures of means by way

of which persons can bring order to the world in the face of its natural, spontaneous

expansion along a pre-given logic. Against this natural progression, both set the

transcendental potential of man to remake self and world, “aright.” It is our potential to “order”

order. The world worlds through the exercise of our potential to create, and to re-create, our

selves. It is in creating the conditions for ourselves to be able to do what we feel we should

do that we are ultimately free. It is only from these grounds in terms of which there is any

harmony, and likewise in the loss of which from which there is any motivation for revolt.

Freedom is the ground of ground.xxii This freedom, as the world that results from it, belongs to


It is only in view of the world, as a whole, of the self as a whole, together waxing and

waning as a whole (to recall Wittgenstein at 6.43), that any possibility for harmony and revolt

exists. It is in this exercise that the Tractatus serves as a ladder of transcendence to see self

and world aright – essentially one. To this, from this point of view, Heidegger compels us to

exercise our human freedom. Take up current grounds, and transcend their limitations to

realize ever higher potentials. And, as the highest aspect of human nature, there is nothing

spontaneous, nothing “natural” about its realization. Climbing is never as easy as falling. It is

hard work. Thus, the great benefit that is a logical pulling machine.

Some notes on contemporary problems.

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In discussing “world” and “transcendence,” Heidegger takes recourse through the history

of Christian philosophy an its various characterizations of world as something higher, indeed

the ultimate reality of which is the object of the spiritual transcendence for which the religious

apparatus itself is to serve a the ladder. There, he reminds us that “world” in the Christian

context specifically refers to the condition of man removed from God, dislocated from an

ultimate home, “being human in the manner of a way of thinking that has turned away from

God.” And, from this tradition, the distinction between the man of the world and the man of

God is reified, until – paraphrasing as Heidegger quotes from John 1:10 – it is possible that

God has created the world, and is in the world, but that the world of man would not recognize


Now, there are two ways in which this is possible, and we can picture these with help

from the preceding discussion. The first is that the logic that is co-extensive with the divine

creation is so ubiquitous that is is passed over. What is common to everything does not stand

out as a thing, on its own, demands no name for itself, and as such is something obvious only

in the silence with which it is regarded. The other way is that the world of man has deviated

so far from the order underwriting it that any statement of this original order presents itself as

nonsense, and illogical. Given the context, that man is dislocated from the conditions of his

inception, only the latter remains viable. After all, only from this starting place is a return

home, to a higher order, necessary.

Further, this second possibility is consistent with the overall picture that life in the natural

world proceeds in the face of the constant, spontaneous degradation of order. The fallen

condition of mankind is merely a by-product of this fact, due to human weakness of will failing

to aspire to higher orders. Given this universal constraint, it is also no coincidence that all

religions point upward, inspiring people against their naturally ordained decline. The general
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proposition common to every religious ideal is the open, unconditioned architecture of the

spiritual world, the promised-land at the end of transcendence to a higher order. It is clear

from the preceding that this is where human potential lies, regardless of religious affiliation.

Upwards is our home, whatever its eventual determination. What is lacking is merely our

courage to get there. The courage to revolt.

Here, I wish briefly to remark on the limiting conditions of particular religious artifices in

play, today. Some religious myths, in so far as their logics pervade history, and predetermine

any history in the making, may appear to point upward but rather are dragging us all,

collectively, downward. Specifically, in so far as some religious grounds exclude others, going

so far as to entertain some necessary destiny belonging solely to “God's chosen people,” the

potential for harmony, and consequently for revolt, is nullified. It is not surprising, thus, that

the people who operate within this logic pursue war, motivated by a divine bigotry, denying to

those others, presumably God's un-chosen a home, as well as any possibility of ever

returning to a home. Even as they, themselves, cry that they had been denied a home, they

leave only one option for the rest of the world, rebellion. And history slides ever faster down

the spontaneous slope of increasing disorder.

For anyone not trapped on either pole to this conflict, of which there are increasingly few,

the possibility of revolt remains. It is not the general architecture of religion that must be

scrapped, only these particular determinations which, by way of their consistent expansion,

cannot pursue the higher path that is the great promise of human potential, and the great

purpose of religious apparatus in the original sense. This is to pull persons up, to motivate

them to work against the natural erosion of the ideal, to establish ever higher orders,

incrementally approximating this ideal as the product of their lives.

Indeed, this is the purpose of the present paper, of my current research program, and of
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philosophy as a whole.

Fig. 4: Rise and fall of a system through

revolution pictured as a simple wave.
i Note that the scope of this presentation has been truncated.
ii “Plato's Doctrine of Truth” (Pathmarks, page 176)
iii Mohanty, 1970, page 102.
iv There are (at least) two ways in which the world is limited. One, empirically, and the other
“hierarchically.” The first, a limit of the totality of objects, the other belonging to the subject, himself.
As in: 5.556 - There cannot be a hierarchy of the forms of elementary propositions. We can foresee
only what we ourselves construct. 5.5561 - Empirical reality is limited by the totality of objects. The
limit also makes itself manifest in the totality of elementary propositions. Hierarchies are and must be
independent of reality.
v As such, it cannot be captured by propositions, as declarations, but by conditionals, and even then
only in terms of possibilities, never with the weight of a “should.” One cannot picture a “should.” At
least, that is Wittgenstein's essential contention, here.
vi Wittgenstein's vision of “proper” philosophy bears some cashing out, here...
vii As a passing point of interest, this does not happen as much as one would like. Without the
experience, and terms, to think a world, a situation, any information thereof presents itself as
“nonsense.” Any picture of said world “illogical.” And, Wittgenstein's speculations here appear to
bear out. As recent research has shown, people are more likely to ignore contrary information, at once
reinforcing existing world-views, rather than change how they imagine the world to be. This trend
seems more powerful as views grow more extreme, with supporting experiences more limited.
viii Further, “All that is required is that we should construct a system of signs with a particular
number of dimensions - with a particular mathematical multiplicity.”(5.475) In short, sort of like a
ladder! But, again, the trouble is in accounting for the necessary dimensions...
ix Here, recall Socrates description in the second book, and add to it Rawls' approach to world
construction. I imagine these to be the sorts of general propositions that may suffice in a pinch.
x “On the Essence of Ground,” Pathmarks (1998), page 107.
xi Ibid.
xii Ibid, page 108.
xiii Ibid, pages 123 and 111, respectively.
xiv Ibid, page 126.
xv Ibid.
xvi Ibid, 121.
xvii Ibid.
xviii Ibid, 126.
xix Ibid.
xx Ibid, page 112. Translating fragment 89.
xxi Ibid, page 135.
xxii Ibid, page 134.
xxiii This discussion spans several pages, belonging to section 2 of “On the Essence of Ground,”
beginning on page 107. References, above, are from pages 112 and 113, respectively.