Saturday 24 March 2018

"Doing" philosophy - a solitary and sustained business

One of the worst things about philosophy is the preponderance of bad advice and bad examples - there is far more destructive nonsense than anything valid or helpful.

Even the matter of what-philosophy-is isn't exempt; because there is a long tradition that philosophy ought to be essentially interactive - a face-to-face discussion, something taught at an academy, a program of study, a set of canonical authors etc. All of this seems to me as pernicious nonsense.

Philosophy ought to be mostly about thinking (not speaking, reading, writing or anything else); a specific person, thinking on some matter of personal concern; reflecting, contemplating, niggling-away at some stuff for a sustained period of time; trying to satisfy himself about it - rather than any other external evaluation.

Philosophy just doesn't happen during speech, debating, arguing and the like - there is a near zero chance that any philosophical experience or learning will happen under such circumstances - such activities interfere-with philosophy rather than being it.

When there are clever and learned people having some kind of to-and-fro about something, or a wise and wonderful person expounding on something while others listen - we can be sure that philosophy has been rigorously excluded from the situation. 

Philosophy is too slow, i requires too much repeated experience, our philosophical learning is too idiosyncratic and unpredictable for there to be any possibility of 'real-time' philosophy.

Those (many) philosophers who have said that the essence of what they did was some kind of a social interaction - whether Socrates in the forum, Plato or Aristotle in their schools... the Vienna Circles discussing logic and evidence, Wittgenstein in a deckchair surrounded by disciples, Isaiah Berlin meeting with dons to reflect on language - all this was the indulgence of philosophical vice or exploitation - philosophically-bad-for the recipients, if not the expounder.

The real thing is utterly personal in inwardly motivated - and inwardly rewarded. It is done for personal satisfaction, and the pseudo-appreciation of other people is far more likely to harm than to help the process. 

Philosophy is something we do for our-selves. It is based on whatever seems to address our concerns. And we must evaluate it in the most complete and personal fashion possible in light of those concerns.

Clarity about all this is hard to attain and hold - but potentially helpful.

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