PHILOSOPHY USES THE WRONG METHODS FOR ‘WISDOM’
Philosophy has for my taste always been pseudo-philosophy, since it began in about 580 BC. It has been an expression of minds that lack that special intelligence and capacity for understanding that human beings have been blessed with Philosophers either lack it or leave it disregarded and fallow.
The birth of philosophy was in some ways a massive regression from the wisdom already present in the culture of ancient Greece with its myths and with its tragic sense of life, and has been so ever since relative to the culture around it at the time.
It is a regression to pre-childhood to have to work out logically whether one exists (Descartes), or whether ‘tree’ and ‘dog’ exist in heaven (Plato). A child wouldn’t make these mistakes, unless he were a precocious philosopher. Think too of the whole debate on whether Mind isn’t just Matter.
The wisdoms that were already developed and implicit in our lives and language are wiped away in this going back to logicking from the beginning as if one had learnt nothing. Philosophers wipe away what we already know, and go downwards and backwards to do logicking upwards and upwards on what has already been logicked. An intelligent, reasonable, rational stopping before that point is required. They are misled by the logic of words into a maze of abstractions winding upwards into nonsense, the very opposite of rationality.
To repeat myself in slightly different words: Philosophers unscramble the wisdoms we already have, such as that we exist and that there is a world out there that we appreciate with our senses, and start again from the bottom, going back to a beginning that we never previously had even as infants. They start all over again from the bottom with logicking.
Logic is mandatory in our everyday use of words so that we make sense. But it isn’t otherwise separately a source of Wisdom. Philosophers chase the sequential logicking of words, to lead them further up, up, up, into abstractions, far away from what the senses and immediate mental connections give, to the point of absurdity. It is a mistaken cast of mind. The wisdoms that were already developed and implicit in our lives and language are wiped away in this going back to logicking from the beginning as if one had learnt nothing.
What they call rationality is a putting aside of the human intelligence already present in our words, and ending up with something silly instead.
Besides, Wisdom for me consists of something else entirely than can be got by logicking. It consists of learning the truth about the ways of Man, his darkness, depth and deceptivity. It is learning the truth about what we get up to, how we justify it to ourselves and deceive ourselves, and how the rest of humanity does so too. This includes not only Man as individual but Man as nations moving ponderously, for which other standards of judgment are needed.
How on earth can one get wisdom about oneself and other people and humanity through logicking, mathematicking, and scientificking? It has been an absolute stupidity for 2500 years; it is amazing that no-one has objected. (I’m not sure without looking it up again, whether Erasmus did to some extent). How can people with minds similar to those of scientists give us Wisdom on human life? It is absurd, a gigantic Category Mistake; — by this big philosophical term, I mean in this case the application of mental methods appropriate to one field but also to others where they aren’t.
Logic, mathematics and science are or have been the extent to which the minds of philosophers work. They take these as comprising Reason, which leads them to a facile understanding of the life of the human self, and then to using it as a basis for step-by-step logicking into ‘abstractions’ which impress people as Wisdom on human life.
That certain something of human intelligence that philosophers lack hasn’t even got a name and is considered to fall outside Reason and Rationality. Their minds don’t encompass it. Alright, so no-one’s mind can encompass everything. But for my taste, their form of Wisdom makes them the arch-nerds of Western Civilization.
‘Nerds’ is too strong and disrespectful a word for a lineage of people going back to 580 BC, who are rigorous in their thinking, and impartial and tolerant, and able to appreciate other world views, but I can’t presently think of anything better. Their thinking is of a highly rigorous standard of argument, of being honest with oneself in this area of mind, and of not letting anything sloppy past one, and these qualities have made an impression on me. Philosophers have very good minds. They are tremendously clever, like scientists are. I think philosophers teach one to tell oneself the truth, to have high standards of argument, not be satisfied with anything less. Someone else has also said: ‘The most important thing that philosophy can teach is how to respect people you disagree with’.
Philosophers, probably the best of them, also often impress me with their understanding of other casts of mind, of other world-views from their own, and their ability to pigeon-hole them into types.
But, but, but…
Philosophers are like those infuriating schoolboys who are good at undoing little bits of wire from each other, and at verbal and mathematical puzzles.
It feels to me a mechanical kind of intelligence. No wonder it is said that artificial intelligence will one day emulate it. Yet, in Western Civilization, it is regarded as what Thought consists of.
Philosophers’ postulating and logicking isn’t the way to understand oneself, or others, or humanity, or any form of life high enough to have a self.
Understanding Adam and Eve, including oneself, is what I call Wisdom, not Newton working out that a ball keeps rolling for ever unless there is something to stop it, or that the sun goes round the earth (or is it the other way round?), or that sugar causes tooth decay, useful as these are. Alright, these examples are from science which brought philosophy to fruition, but they still aren’t wisdom. They are technically useful, many of them doing God’s work of mercy, saving us from suffering. One can know them, and still be a pedestrian fellow, undeveloped in life and in words, in feeling and in understanding.
Adam and Eve have subtle ways and subtle motives, not apparent even to themselves, and knowing them takes other than logicking, mathematicking and scientificking. Even the ways of honest people aren’t understood by way of logic, mathematics and scientific method.
This kind of thinking and talking, which they call Rationality or Rationalism as if it’s the highest form of thinking, is simply inappropriate to understanding the life of humans, or to any form of life high enough to have a self, including the life of my ancient dog who is just hanging on.
Philosophy should simply be regarded as a hobby-horse of logicking for people of that cast of mind. This issue for me goes beyond the humanities vs sciences debate of the mid 19th century.
The logicking of Philosophy is very difficult, like science is; but it’s nonsense nevertheless; one shouldn’t be misled.
I haven’t brought my exasperation with Philosophy to a philosophical level of precision because it is not yet completely clear in my own mind. I use rhetorical flourishes in places instead. Also, readers may notice that my references aren’t to respectable philosophy sites. My excuse is that I would need to have the same frame of mind to be able to endure philosophy professors talking at length to philosophy students within the department of Philosophy. Their whole way of thought is what I’m astonished at, and can’t force myself to convert into. Also, some of my references may be to sites that no longer exist because I read them some time ago.
(This theme continues on other posts in the category Philosophy on this site.)