A Bad Rap

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Self-love: shrilling embrace

Laying bear one’s existential plight is neither a self-indulgent exercise in victimization, nor is it beholden to pessimistic world views. It is a concrete aestheticized rehearsal of lived life, a subversive form of entry into the human condition. It bears the merits, and indulgencies, of artful communication, advocating and yet simultaneously subverting through the cultivation of clairvoyant intercourse. Intimacy of readership is quintessential to extrapolating the truth.

Says Nietzsche in the 2nd Preface to his Gay Science:

It seems to be written in the language of the wind that brings a thaw: it contains high spirits, unrest, contradiction, and April weather, so that one is constantly reminded of winter’s nearness as well as of the triumph over winter that is coming, must come, perhaps has already come…Gratitude flows forth incessantly, as if that which was most unexpected had just happened – the gratitude of a convalescent – for recovery was what was most unexpected. ‘Gay Science’: this signifies the saturnalia1 of a mind that has patiently resisted a terrible, long pressure – patiently, severely, coldly, without yielding, but also without hope – and is now all of a sudden attacked by hope, by hope for health, by the intoxication of recovery.

 

Mankind’s problem, “was not [is not] suffering itself, but that there was no answer to the crying question, ‘why do I suffer?’…The meaninglessness of suffering, not suffering itself, was the curse that lay over mankind”. Hence, one could argue it is suffering over suffering that is unique to the human condition. Does this invite existential melancholy as the default state? Is the Gay Science a parody of gaiety? Shall we lay in wait as that patient lion ready to pounce upon her prey: happiness? Does the meaninglessness of life divine a life more wretched than death? Are we left to choke on our pessimism, faithlessness, cynicism, and despair? Don’t despair ( 😉 ), probably not…but certainly also, yes.

It has so often been levied as a criticism that Nietzsche’s philosophy, not just the man himself, suffers from melancholy. That ultimately the world is a callous, uncaring, unwelcoming place. Well might as well add “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”, since this echoes the state of nature as described by Hobbes more than anything Nietzsche had to say.

I don’t smooch with positivity. He’s just not my type. But I will be damned if ever I lay with negativity either. Both bastard children, twins actually, to Narcissus. You know… the one transfixed by his own beauty and died enslaved to the indulgencies of self-love! Cripple! Had he only looked out beyond the riverbed to discover himself in the eyes of his beloved he might have limited hell on earth to other people (insert Sartre here).

…to be continued….

Alarmed? Annoyed? Appalled? Indignant? Read on: Why the Long Face, by Adam Roberts

 

“And it feels so good to feel so bad. And suffer just enough to sing the blues”

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A write of passage…

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Writing is a bit like sailing. There are days that you’re coasting, the waters are calm and uneventful, but the life underneath appears as miracles do. Other times winds conjure travesty and all is now opaque, yet scandalously alive! Sometimes it feels like a rite of passage, as if, oh faithless one gather your tears, God has made it so. Believe and all is won, doubt and all is cherished. Writing is neither. For with each stroke the arrogance of pernicious truth finds the page, doubly entreating for the faint of heart lamenting as the ink dries and false idols appear.

Oh, to See with Wide-Eyes

I use to think that a state of indifference was equivalent to a state of non-existence. And yet there is great power to be had. Not over the object of one’s past affections, for clearly to speak of it in such vein would only deny its actual instantiation; i.e. it rests in focused attention to that object as defiant rejection, and that, is still an act of care. It’s more like a flickering flame that simply and quite uneventfully goes out. The power is grounded in the resurrection of self. For immersed in the object of one’s affection there is always the threat of self-annihilation that is only properly protected within the art of diabolical negotiation. Where it withers, the flame breathes no more. I’ve never wanted to be cremated prematurely, and so the state of indifference has been welcomed with a sense of anticipation. Still, moving forward, the lens of my concentration seems in wide-angle viewing to see things quite distinctly. I won’t say more clearly, for what is to be said of the quality of sight poised narrowly or widely that cannot be captured by a simple – yet painful – change in focus? The vantage from which the world is now screened only opens endless possibilities previously undisclosed; alitheia, which is really a process that motions from a state of unconcealedness to a state where all that was priorly in oblivion is disclosed, or if you like, becomes visible. There is celebration in this.

Philosophical Confessions

I decided to rename my blog Philosophical Confessions in light of new formalized sensibilities informed by both experience and my philosophical propensities. My original motivation for this blog has not changed.

It is still:

Home to philosophical reflections on life issues. These will vary from philosophically dense scholarly-type papers, to quibbles, annotations, critiques, self-help guides, and problematics. It was the university, first as a student and later as a Professor of Philosophy, that was once home to my philosophical engagement with life issues. Initially this was an ideal forum for an interactive, passionate exchange of commonly entrenched concerns but as education came to suffer the ills of institutionalization more and more, and standardized policies replaced the creative, and biophilous dialectical flux that characterized the inter and intra-human exchange amongst practitioners of philosophy, this became an ever alienating experience. Yet the yearning for meaningful reflection has not waned and the practical application dating back to the Greeks has finally found new footing in Philosophical Counselling. Putting philosophy back on the streets and employing philosophical methods as a form of counselling constitute the two-tier structure of this blog. Negotiating the “truth” in all facets of life and living will be the driving force that both defines the parameters and implications of all philosophical reflections.

I am now enriched from years of  ‘agitation’ that has both deepened and contoured my philosophical preoccupations. Not unlike Socrates, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Simone de Beauvoir and even might I daringly add, Veronica Franco (16th-century Venetian courtesan and poet), seeking the truth, the mainstay of all philosophical ventures, is sought not somewhere aloof, rigidly outside, beyond, over-and-against, or cast off from its visceral incarnation.  For it is in how one lives one’s life that the truth is revealed. Writing brings truth to bear in a social domain which often goes amiss, creating havoc wherever misunderstanding perturbs interpretation. Confessionals add context; they are personalized moments in which the truth is disclosed or dislodged from the abundance that purveys life. Not then to be read like a map plotting life denotatively, but more like music rich in notational instructions which only properly comes to life when played …symphonically. I like to think of these confessionals as a symphony of sorts – however badly written, for I am no musician.

Spinning Top

I would never have pegged myself for the self-indulgent. But there you have it: I am. Not self-centred or selfish, mind you. In fact, on Aristotle’s scale I’d come out on the excessively self-sacrificing and accommodating side, and we all know those are vices that tamper with your well-being. But today I shall leave Aristotle at the door. Sorry dude! Today’s lesson kids (hehehehe) is about the desire to be understood. You’d think it a noncontroversial desire, right? For anyone whose composure isn’t being threatened by your all-too-innocent – angelic? saintly? (hehehehe) – insistence, sure! And there you are following him around from room to room to make your point, and as you do, his steps accelerate – I never knew he could walk so damn fast! – and eventually running out of places to go, the same rooms are visited …ad infinitum…. Okay so we did eventually get off the merry-go-round but even then the house still felt as if it were spinning. Funny how I never even noticed he was silent in all of this! WHAT?! Well, he w885e39de89d01b0452da242742484522as there, right? It’s not like he said: Shut up, lay off, leave me alone, go away, take your little spinning top and vamos!!!! Secretly I knew he knew I was right! (I know he did!!! 🙂 )and his silent “presence” seemed to confirm it to my little mind! ELEOS, Pirocacos, moutzes afthones! But not everyone wants their “world” shattered by the truth, and so however important understanding is, it is not….yes, Pirocacos…NOT….everyone’s priority. Truth does not always trump composure. Truth does not always take a front seat to serenity. Truth is not always his truth. (Notice mine is capitalized…NO, I’m not self-indulgent at all, and I take offencedog-chasing-tail-ocd-2-510x600.jpg at the suggestion!) And so that cute, adorable, feisty, little spinning top looks slightly more like a dog chasing its own tail! Nuts, right!!!? The truth is (OMG, still I seek understanding from my anonymous audience…there is just no salvation for this woman!) …what was I saying? Oh ya, the truth is that “the truth” is never really an isolated state of affairs, and so stuck within the confines of one’s own comportment is not only illusory and self-indulgent, but it’s never quite experienced as truth until it is understood by your dialogical counterpart. So cut her some slack, people!

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Students who have taken this course have valued how the lectures challenged their existing conceptual frameworks, without at the same time offending their sensibilities, espousing ideas that were perceived to be both practical and intuitive. Students found the assigned exercises to be especially thought-provoking, and fun.

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So What’s Your Point?

 

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The rage people sometimes feel for philosophers is probably warranted. A friend recently read one of my blogs and laughingly said, so what’s the conclusion? Feeling secretly disturbed, I think I might have laughed more loudly when I quipped, do you always surrender yourself to the linguistic whims of your writer? Silence. A rift. Then: Casual conversation emptied the void.

The science narrative has pervaded mainstream discourse with a sense for the practical. Assessment. conclusion, application. Assessment. conclusion, application. Assessment. conclusion, application. Assessment. conclusion, application. Repeat.

Therein lies the trouble. This paradigm of discourse does not have dibs on how to construe the truth or endeavour to find the truth. The history of philosophy is literally filed with competing formulations of the truth, which implicate assumptions on a host of interrelated issues ranging from the relationship between the truth and the world; whether indeed there is a mind-independent world (that can be known); how indeed the structures of natural languages gauge and meaningfully expose the truth; the metaphysical underpinning of any truth assertion, and how the so-called distinction between the thinking subject and object are to be bridged, if at all. Mostly scientists, and those disposed to scientific-like formulations of the truth, are oblivious to all of this and often respond with a gaping yawn at such quibbles.

Part of the problem lies in the distinctive nature of philosophical discourse. Philosophy is a second order discipline that always wants to have a look at what lurks underneath the rug, or what goes on behind the stage. Philosophers aren’t satisfied with merely finding the most efficient ways of keeping the rug clean or operating a smooth production; philosophers want to know what the rug is! Now most people don’t care to ask this question because it is, after all, just obviously a rug. It is, as it were, an uninteresting question. I mean really who cares?! Well Plato cared. He cared about being able to apprehend the rug itself as opposed to one’s perceptions of the rug. Plato had noticed (he wasn’t the first to notice this, however) that appearances vary from person to person and from time to time. He also noticed that we address the items of the world that occupy our mind as if they are eternal and constant. The point being that there must be some enduring thingness that survives these relative changes if we continue to refer to any such item as that thing that it is, namely the table, person, dog, star, and so on. Plato got to this “conclusion” by exposing abounding contradictions; for instance, Elly is both beautiful and ugly, for John has issued the first statement, and Mary the second. But Elly can’t be both beautiful and ugly since being beautiful contradicts being ugly. So Elly can’t be both of these things, anymore than a piece of string can be both long and short, or a man can be both strong and weak (do you find my examples to be sexists? 😉 )  In come the distinction between appearances and reality. Appearances are ephemeral; whilst reality is eternal. Appearances don’t speak to the thing itself, but rather to how that thing appears to the human mind under certain conditions – so Elly can be ugly to Mary and beautiful to John because the statement speaks to “Elly” or the appearance of Elly, as opposed to Elly herself. (Ummm what happened to Elly? Where’d she go? Does she not exist?) The thing itself, however, cannot be apprehended by mere perception. This is where things become hazy. Plato argued that the world of appearance – this one, the one we live in – is the world of appearance from which one can glean only partial and relative truths – is distinct from the intelligible world – some “other” realm or “world” or sphere of human understanding where the items that make up reality are true to their essence, enduring in a manner unadulterated by the human condition or the physical circumstances of the perceptible world. You may disagree with Plato’s metaphysics, but notice that if we are to rely on the results of scientific inquiry, we’d better be sure of the domain of its heir. And if Plato is right, scientific inquiry pertains to asking questions about the hows and whys of this world; the world of mere appearance. As complex as this enterprise may be answers apply only within a narrow field of assessment conditioned on the breadth and depth of the understanding of the laws that govern the behaviour of sensible objects in this field of perceptible things. The more we know of the conditions that sustain certain perceivable events, the more enduring the assessment and assent to a given truth about the world. You have noticed how science changes it’s “mind” about its understanding and explanation of events all the time, right?! So the scientific paradigm is limited in scope, namely it is limited to the objects of the physical, ephemeral and perceptible world, and the breadth and depth of scientific understanding and discovery. It would seem, therefore, that the conclusions of scientific inquiry are not conclusive!

So to my friend, and all those who entertain the bias that indiscriminately favours the science paradigm, don’t forget your boundaries!

What is Philosophy?

My initial search began with the question: what is philosophy? Soon this warped into auxiliary questions regarding the history and scope of philosophy, apropos methods of conducting philosophy and hence the astute concern raised by Astra amongst “official” academic philosophers and exile of mere partisan philosophers. The New School organized this panel discussion asking not the most fundamental question, what is philosophy, but its more socio-politically loaded variant, Does Philosophy Still Matter? After all, the New School is like no other. It is interesting to see how philosophers from different schools of thought have a different take on what philosophy actually is and what it’s worth is, if any – especially when construed in terms of utility-value. These speakers are brilliant in their own right, having contributed volumes of scholarship, offered work and talks of remarkable inspiration and with a breathe and depth of knowledge rarely encountered.

Does Philosophy Still Matter? New School

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