May 14, 2010

Philosophy is always parasitic

When I wrote the book, I very much respected this organic process, and never tried to force anything. […] So when I started blogging over five years ago, I never expected the harvest to go on for this long. […] A prime example of deep stupidity and grandiose error is Marxism and all of its many polluted streams, branches, creeks and crocks. […]

Freud stumbled upon the method of free association with which to try to understand the various agendas of the mind that ran counter to truth and were the source of psychological pain and dysfunction. There is no great mystery to free association, in which the patient lies down and tries to say whatever comes to mind without censoring it. It is simply a way to try to lull the left brain to sleep and allow the right brain to come out of the shadows. Sounds easy, but every step along the way is met with resistance which can become labyrinthine in its ability to prevent the discovery of the truth.

Here again this is remarkable, for it means that the part of the mind that is resisting must know the truth on some level, otherwise there would be no reason to resist it. Therefore, as Bion pointed out, the truth is prior to the lie, just as light must be prior to the shadow. Indeed, Bion went so far as to say that only the Lie requires a thinker -- and actually brings the thinker into being. On the other hand, truth requires only our conformity with it. We simply "bow before reality" -- which, when you think about it, is an excellent way of putting it, for reverent bowing is one of the appropriate responses to the force, or presence, of truth.

Schuon said something similar when he wrote that "A truth is efficacious to the extent that we assimilate it; if it does not give us the strength we need, this merely proves we have not grasped it. It is not for the truth to be 'dynamic,' it is for us to be dynamic thanks to the truth. What is lacking in today’s world is a penetrating and comprehensive knowledge of the nature of things; the fundamental truths are always accessible, but they could not be imposed on those who refuse to take them into consideration."

Among other responses, truth engenders a dynamic sense of veneration -- a sense of the sacred. And this is why you will have noticed that the left attempts to surround so many of its smelly little orthodoxies with the penumbra of sanctity. But the sanctity is entirely bogus -- it readily slides into the sanctimony that is intrinsic to the left.

In a perverse way, this sanctimoniousness answers the human need for the sacred, but in an alternatively crudely sentimental or authoritarian manner enforced by the many varieties political correctness.

Whatever else one might think about Badiou’s philosophy, I think he’s got it right when he argues that the conditions of philosophy are always outside of philosophy. They are to be found in the politics of the day, the science of the day, the art of the day, and great loves. And probably many other things besides. When have we ever had a genuine philosopher that wasn’t secretly animated by the mathematics or science of his day and how it had overturned everything, that wasn’t struck by the political transformations of her day and therefore had to rethink the nature of being, who hadn’t been struck by the art of her day and therefore had to rethink the nature of the world, or who hadn’t been struck dumb by an amorous encounter? Philosophy always finds its animation from elsewhere than philosophy. Or to put it differently, the production of philosophy is not strictly immanent in the sense that it is not motivated simply by other philosophers.
Whenever philosophy happens, of course, many philosophers emerge and argue with each other. But I cannot help but feel that this is because they are all collectively responding to conditions outside philosophy. Spinoza, Descartes, Leibniz, Hume, etc., responding to, among other things, Galileo. And this is why philosophy becomes so sickly when it becomes a discipline. Because philosophy finds its conditions outside philosophy, because philosophy is always parasitic, like a self-reflexive meta-discourse trying to think the state of discourse and what it reveals about being, and because disciplines must have an object you end up with something like a morbid continental philosophy that can only feed on the corpses of dead philosophers, and a technocratic and administrative Anglo-American philosophy that tries to turn philosophy into a scientific discipline based on minor problems. Philosophy is here cut off from its outside and as I’ve said on another occasion, philosophy cannot happen without its others. This is why I’m always embarrassed when others from other disciplines and practices apologize for “not being philosophers” when addressing philosophers.

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