Friday, July 1, 2011

A little sketch of the beginnings of proper philosophic thought

From a distance, the playground sounds reach the ear as an ecstatic whispering. As the person approaches, these sounds flow apart to become the shouts of children, myriad shuffles of motion, wind blowing across grass, and the low, deep hum of adult conversation.

Distributed in their respective zones, the denizens have segregated themselves by activity. About the very perimeter there can be found dogs. One is squatting down to shit while its owner waits with a scowl, no doubt uncomfortable with being observed. Another runs in J shaped intercept patterns, zealously retrieving the ball that is thrown by its patient master. In a sunny but secluded space, just inside this perimeter, one finds alluringly toned men and women sunbathing. They are young, old, nearly naked, fully clothed, happy to be seen, unhappy to be seen, indifferent. Moving now toward the heart of the space, here are the games and the children. Some play on the equipment. Others buzz in endless squiggles as they pursue the soccer ball. Little groups of children quietly or boisterously discuss their plans in the shade of the great fur trees. One solitary boy sits against a concrete wall, whining to his mother who listens with concern that may or may not be genuine. Here one finds that encircling these groups of children and sprinkled throughout are adults: parents and caregivers of various types, older siblings and babysitters.

Categories puff into being as the mind searches for eloquent words. The truth is there but it can never be anywhere but where it is, it can never have a form other than itself. Those particulars which become the exemplars on which we base categories can never be identical to ideas in the mind, words on the lip, or the abstract workings of a step-wise mechanical process.

The observer speaks from memory, but those who listen must then speak from their imaginations. Deep in the consciousness there are these little things - impressions of the world - that are a more primordial form of imagination which springs up in the moment of observation. But for the reader there are no impressions of the particular moment at the particular place that I have observed. And so even if by some luck every detail he contemplates is filled in exactly as it was, the reader will only have recreated those things which he has contemplated. But contemplation itself is limited in ways that experience is not, and it extends in dimensions that have never yet been experienced.

Philosophy can now be considered. If description, prediction, and all the other measurable ways of analyzing the narratives of people are to be refined, all such refinement must be based on the comparison of the narratives of observers with those of listeners. Because this is a question of the quality of the imagination itself, Philosophy is an effort to improve imagination. But this means that we must define improvement, and so we must have some sentimental agreement as to what ways of imagining are superior. Thus it will never be possible to proceed from first principles in the way that the philosophers of old have done. It should be obvious, in any event, that philosophy cannot exist outside of the particular cultural tradition from which the consciousnesses of its practitioners are constructed. To note: consciousness can only be constructed from things which are not consciousness, or it cannot be constructed at all.

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