Saturday, May 30, 2015

Philosophy and Conversation

In large part philosophy is a political discussion among schoolmen, significant only so far as some of these people variously work for government, civil service, industry, or play the role of intellectual celebrity. They also influence young matriculants (improperly called "students"), though most young people aren't listening. Meanwhile, the metaphysical problem is solved, that is "We really haven't got a clue, so we should do well to advance our convictions with a great deal of careful thought." Which itself is a political statement embedded into the core of western civilization, from St. Paul to Wittgenstein, though most are oblivious to this understanding. 

Let's think about this statement. Do I really mean what I'm saying here?

Suffice it to say substituting the word "philosophy" with "schoolmen's conversation" brings some interesting things to the surface.

People who come from the outside--Nabokov, Melville, Hawthorne, Milton, Orwell, C.S. Lewis (yes, he is a schoolman but his field is literature and his thinking is shaped by his theological concerns)--are in a position to see "philosophy" as just that. That is, as "a conversation." How did Wittgenstein come to this understanding? He was of course from "out there" as well. Way out there. His genius was that he insinuated this understanding into the schoolmen's conversation. And of course we have the phenomenon of Plato, as crafty and as elusive as he is brilliant, writing dialogues. And there is further irony in this, too, as Plato represents our quintessential schoolman, always playing his cards close to his chest, and never showing outsiders the secret handshake.

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