Counter-philosophy Philosophy

The Philosophy of Academia is not Wisdom, part 2

Wisdom is learning about oneself and about Adam and Eve.  It is not some kind of objective knowledge arrived at by logic, mathematics or science, that can be argued, and demonstrated to other people for them to agree with, and that students can write down in their lectures.

Some people are satisfied that they have gained Wisdom by sitting in class and writing down the science that other people have done.  

For coming to an understanding of oneself and of others, one bases oneself on experience, therefore one could say one is being ’empiricist’. I personally then feel that this kind of understanding has to ring true within me.  l have to feel it and touch it within me. Even then it is only provisional, and one has to go on receiving impressions. 

This strange kind of intelligence does not come from the same mental faculty as do logic, mathematics and scientific method.   It is a strange intelligence indeed with it having to ‘ring true inside one’. 

Philosophers are simple-minded on human affairs — the examples they draw on  from human life and speech, to exhibit their methods on, lack the subtlety, complexity, concealment, falsity, deception, self-deception, irony, tragedy and comedy, which is what human beings are made of and get up to. This deficiency is inevitable, from their kind of mind.  They make, for example,  such an important thing out of the ‘Principle of the Excluded Middle’ — Either it will snow today or it will not snow today, but not in-between — which is ‘one of the Three Laws of Thought’.   An ordinary person  just accepts it as not worth talking about.  What would Jane Austen or Anthony Trollope have made of it?  (No, that’s not actually an example from human life or speech; it’s an example from Logic.  I will find better examples of philosophers’ simple-mindedness about life for further posts.)

Philosophers were the proto-scientists of ancient times, seeking objective knowledge of the universe as the scientists did later, and one doesn’t call science Wisdom.   

Logicking upwards from one or two certainties like Descartes did, in order to gain knowledge or wisdom, and not to trust one’s senses, leads to absurdities.  As I think Ayn Rand (who was otherwise an enthusiast for the importance of Philosophy) said, one only learns to mistrust one’s senses because one’s senses eventually tell one what the truth is.  To believe what comes to one by logicking, rather than by the senses, is crazy.  This applies to Parmenides just as much as to Descartes (from here). 

Philosophers use logic to try to solve what are imponderables to logic, but these imponderables remain imponderables by the very nature of imponderables and of logic

Philosophers have defined Man as ‘the rational animal’ in their sense of logicking, mathematicking and scientificking.  Our feelings, memories, dreams, nostalgias, imaginations, motivations, hatreds and loves, longings for a life of adventure and life (on top of the two other lists of human  faculties I have listed above or in part I of this series) seem not to come into it, even though they too are so much more developed than in animals.  So someone as idiotic as Bertrand Russell becomes the supreme Man.  Oi! 

Philosophy is of a kind and degree of ‘rationalism’ that cuts out human wisdom.  It is so ‘rationalistic’ that it becomes irrational.

I do demand hard realism when it comes to our thinking on Man, not the sentimental words and melodies of some Romantics, let alone the simple-mindedness of rationalists like Bertrand Russell.  The dichotomy between Reason and Romanticism must have been invented by philosophers.  I am a rationalist in the sense of realist; and the fancies of philosophers just aren’t rational.

Philosophers have a drivenness for logical neatness and conclusivity.  A truly rational person should rather shrug his shoulders at questions that are quite clearly beyond logicking, such as: What is the relation between the material brain and the immaterial mind? Philosophers think up ridiculous rationalizations for this problem such as epiphenomenalism and occasionalism.  Look these up; they are amazing.  Descartes himself In a letter late in his life (from here) wrote that ‘the union of mind and body is best understood by not thinking about it, and that it is just one of those mysteries that has to be accepted without being comprehended’.  Exactly!

From the beginning, philosophers have been grinning idiots with the optimism that comes from confidence in Reason.  This rationalistic sense of life is seen also in scientists with their simple optimism that goodness consists of discovering more science, unaware that we all succeed in making the world just as bad on the whole as it was before the undoubted benefits of science.  The idea that science saves us is even more crazy than that Christ does.  

Religions, with all their faults such as believing in God and burning people at the stake, are more intelligent about man as a whole than Philosophy is.  They do at least deal with man’s lack of fulfilment, his sin, and his yearning for reward in this life and in life everlasting.

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I was once sitting in a Philosophy class at a university and said something about Jung because I was a confused fellow.  Anyway, a middle-aged lady next to me turned and said that that represented education, and that the people lecturing to us didn’t!  What a thing to say!  She spoke spontaneously and unpretentiously.  Someone felt like I did!  Knowing what Jung said about the irrational unconscious was Education for her, and the logicking we were getting from our lecturers wasn’t!  

I was amazed too in the opposite direction, that other students whom I had dismissed as unsophisticated and unimaginative dullards (whom I rolled my eyes up to the heavens at) took readily to Philosophy like ducks to water, while I was left scratching my head. They even did some philosophizing themselves!  They were better than I was!  Yet they weren’t exactly the sort of people who read Jonathan Swift or Anthony Trollope. 

(‘Unsophisticated’ and ‘unimaginative’! Those unsatisfactory words are the best I can come up with.  They are part of my present incompleteness of philosophical precision in defining my Anti-Philosophy.)

To understand the self, one’s own and those of others, one needs a mind with other mental faculties than logic, mathematics and science.  What are they?  ‘Imagination’?  ‘Intuition’?   Inspiration from the gods?  From the autonomous and supernatural nature of our selves?  From experience of living?  Or is it just a je ne sais quoi?  One can imagine philosophers making mince-meat of all these ideas 

It helps to have seen a bit of life, led a bit of life, of the low life, of danger, of risk, of things crashing about one’s head.

It is a quality of mind educated too by the reading of literature which broadens and deepens the mind by taking one into the innermost minds of entirely made-up characters. Education and Wisdom by way of untrue stories that someone has made up? How can that be?  It is also educated by History, Religion, Classics, which broaden and deepen the mind by taking one into the motivations of human selves, and not just by Science which is only appropriate to things.

Why hasn’t Literature condemned Philosophy as simply being stupid and ‘rationalistic’ of a kind and to a degree that deletes human wisdom.  It is so rationalistic that it becomes irrational.  I don’t understand why it hasn’t condemned it.  Even the curmudgeonly F.R. Leavis strolled with Ludwig Wittgenstein.  (I think someone has suggested that Leavis, though he recognized philosophy as being logico-mathematical, did still misunderstand it.  Is this possible?  I will look at my notes on him again and write a post.)

Keats criticized Coleridge for putting the Idealistic Philosophy of his day into his poetry.  Keats recommended being content to live in the world of the senses, and not to try to ferret out the ‘fundamental truth’ of things ‘by step by step reasoning’.   Keats called his own rejection of truth-seeking, ‘Negative Capability’.  Very good!  (from here.)

I came across this passage too:  “Homer begins his huge epic poem Iliad with the ‘rage of Achilles’. It is emotional from the very first words, and cares little about finding out the secrets of the physical world, and is much more interested in delving into the secrets and the darkness in men’s hearts.”  (I owe this passage to another website, perhaps from E.R. Dodds, but I don’t know which one.)   It is a pretty obvious truth about all fictional and poetic literature..

I was amazed when I first came across people who valued more seriously than anything else in Man, the rationalistic thought element of his consciousness – the logicking, mathematicking, and scientificking, not the mysteries lying within him.  The latter was the significant thing for me.  The former was purely technical, materially useful as this is.  We are the most highly developed of creatures in our feelings, musings, dreams, nostalgias, memories, ironies, longings, motivations, deceptions, self-deceptions and so on, not only in our mathematicking and logicking.  

Philosophically naive as I am, I was impressed by a post from philosopher Christopher Norris.  It made me think that good philosophy of science, by warning scientists to stick to the empirical and to be careful with words, is relevant to modern physics.  It seemed to me very rigorous stuff by a philosopher who knew his physics.  Yes, think I, if you are already so abstractly and empirically rationalistic as to be a scientist, then philosophy may well be relevant to you.  As another post says: ‘Philosophy is epistemology applied to the scientific enterprise….’  Yes, perhaps that’s all Philosophy is good for, which is already quite a lot in the modern world.

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