The drive towards philosophy is autistic and has the profile of an addiction.
The need for consistency and to have things things hang together in some kind of systematic or even elegant way- all wrapped up in the pretence of wanting to “see” how they hang together, as if this autism lacked any violence. And once exposed, once you’ve tasted the cognitive heroin of philosophical speculation,it becomes impossible to quit the habit.
Reading is the process of preparing the hit and writing or conversation is the joint effort at shooting up: to enter the delirium where the quotidian world is left behind. It might be transformed into a world to be wondered at or else transmuted into excremental waste, or forms and patterns or flux or relations of partially withdrawn simples- but it is anything but the world of nappies and knife crime and heart attacks and sunday afternoons, all of which philosophy cannibalises- material for its sublimational metabolism.
Even if one is a poor philosopher, an amateur, a failure- perhaps you have only a poor level of education or you are just not as clever as people once thought you were, and people around you still seem to think you are or might or could be or perhaps you are impatient or inattentive in your readings, or you cannot sit with a thought without several others intruding and pulling you into their vortex of chaotic disorientation, or you write without care, under the pressure of a manic need to get it out right now right now right now- even this philosopher, who is not a philosopher, is compelled onwards by an autism and an addictive necessity.
In the great and the poor thinkers I suspect the autism differs in strength and degree but not in kind. Between Kant’s architectonic systemising and the sloppy negation of everything by the high school nihilist- who has never been granted the respect she deserves- there is no difference of type. Instead there is a difference of training and aptitude and crucially of the intensity of the addiction.
Even with the Deleuzian answer to the question “what is philosophy?” we see this violence.
It is creation in the machinic assembling of concepts that do not represent the world but intervene in it and perform upon it a constitutive function as a further expression of immanence. Here thought reaches the height of its drunkenness on its own potencies. It may be true from the subjective side of things- from the side of things where cognition doesn’t make 1:1 representational mappings of the world but instead produces pragmatic hand holds in the craggy cliff face of the earth so that we little biological machines can navigate our way to survival and to a vanishing ideal of health in the most efficacious manner we can achieve.
But I sense that the Deleuzian answer doesn’t like this Darwinian claim that still remains too modest. Rather cognition becomes Thought becomes Philosophy; the hominid neuropsychological tool-kit becomes a disembodied potency of production of production that can conjure concepts and thus worlds out of its own cognitive Prometheanism.
If that seems unfair to you then I suppose I’ve blundered.
I’m an addict without good junk, and a neurotic autist without community or guides, wandering through the passages of thinking, barely able to grasp a hand into the crevices that serve as rugged grips.
All addictions imply a violence, and austism- whatever is said else is said of it- always implies an incapacity to cope with the world of the neurotypical majority.
If you were happy with the consensus hallucination you wouldn’t worry about whether or not this or that were real or justifiable or internally consistent.
I asked a friend: why are you a socialist? And he replied: I like nice things and I think other people should have them too because they’re nice and that feels good.
He said it in those words.
I like the thing because it feels good. It feels good because it feels good.
This much is self-grounding and thus has no ground in thought. It is pure biology. It is neurochemical. You could call it simple theory. Or you could call it the ability to get on with things.
To speak with the simplicity of child: a dream of the death of philosophy.
I am one of those poor philosophers who are not philosophers at all but stumbling idiots lucky enough to have contact with enough of the real things to feel somehow connected to their world. I share their autism.
I have the addiction but for one reason or another it has not had the chance to flourish. Perhaps I’m lucky or perhaps with my reduced capacities I encounter the frustration that is seen in those neurodivergent types who cannot or will not speak. I lack the clarity of philosophical vocabulary.
But I don’t want to dwell on myself- I’m merely sick of the denials of self from those who write. The shame or the disgust with being a person- not this or that person but just one of those things that mistakenly believes it is a personal at all.
I agree with nietzsche that philosophy might come down to physiology and psychology. Aren’t the denials of this just more attempts to safe guard ourselves against the disgust at being this soft machine? This body that tries and eventually fails to cope with being in the world.
Ultimately it all comes down to coping.
How much do you need help with coping? What resources do you call on? There are those who are thrown back almost entirely on thought.
This is their primary or even sole way of getting through the day. Oh dear.
The client I see in the addiction crisis centre- she sells her body on the street (no- not all sex work is emancipatory; yes- some sex workers do require rescue: I know because they come asking for it). She sells her body to buy her heroin that she jags right into her veins to get inside that beautiful cloud of unknowing- that synthetic molecular Pleroma of total exit: temporary but absolute exit.
Maybe she misses the vein; maybe the muscle tissue bursts and becomes infected; it swells up, the skin goes red and hot to the touch; inside the heroin she shoots is the seeds of botulism, now festering and growing in her tissue, now spreading through them; now doubling her vision, now sending her delirious, now closing up her throat, now asphyxiating her. There she is, down the side street, in that open basement level that you walk by without looking down as you stroll along to the little independent book shop you like: dead.
Permanent absolute escape.
What is the difference between her and the philosopher? It is perhaps by dint of my own troubled physiology and psychology that I give the following answer:
the philosopher takes less risks, and in turn never experiences the fullness of negativity that her chemical escape protocols administer.
What is philosophy then?
I don’t pretend to be able to answer.
Perhaps all I can say is that I have a suspicion of what it must be, given the status of thought, and given the above considerations.
Or maybe my answer is aesthetic and completely un-philosophical- although, if my suspicions approximate anything like the truth,perhaps all philosophy is the building of an aesthetic in which to live.
A process of cocooning: the construction of cognitive bunkers: a web of ideas to wrap ourselves: an artificial womb to return to.
So I have options on how to answer, having given several already, and leaving them to slide over one another smoothly, or else to collide in the horror of a destructive integration that resembles nothing more than a body in the rejection of donated tissue.
I have said philosophy is autism and addiction and this means it is evidence of a fundamental incapacity to cope with the world.
But it is also for that very reason the mode of failure to cope as the mode of coping. It is the aestheticisation of that failure to cope as coping. It is an affliction that one enjoys and intensifies even as it eviscerates and leads you down to new neuroses and new incapacities. It is a sickness that blossoms a new kind of health- the vitality of a pathological process that the philosopher and the would-be philosopher, and the seekers after truth, try to give themselves to.
It was said that philosophy is the love of wisdom. Instead I suspect that it is the love of this certain kind of sickness; or if we are to grant thought any autonomy at all it is perhaps the narcissism of sickness, the pathology’s own self-regard, for which we, as individuated lumps of matter, are the mere occasion.
A Schopenhauerian flash comes over me as I write that last sentence: the idealism of Will is nothing more than the insight into this inhuman pathology that is parasitic on the human and nonhuman biological set up transformed into a metaphysical principle. Schopenhauer’s ascetic denial of the will to life is little more than the will to this disease trapped within and an expression of the disease.
I am wandering now, getting lost in my improvisational thinking, contradicting myself, inflating where I had set out to deflate, raising up where I had set out to stay with the ruins of dissolution.
There is a type of human who prefers the ruins to the origins; the sickness to the health; or at least who sees in the ruin the most ambiguous moment, and in sickness a kind of weird and horrible truth.
But I am still wandering, muttering- playing at knowing what it is I’m saying, and playing at knowing how to answer the question of philosophy, or of thought. I can only shrug in the end. I can only have my suspicions. I can only have the inadequate formulations of a brain in constant oscillation between forms of darkness- despair and indifference; enthusiasm and desire.
Consciousness is the dagger in the flesh?
Yes- but the maybe the flesh love the dagger for all that, and it pushes the blade deeper into the meat, twisting its serrated edges so as to churn the wound into a jagged mess that won’t close up and will never heal. This is the catastrophic mode of thought. Less philosophia and more catastrophia: the love of the wound and sickness.
I don’t know what philosophy is.
I don’t know what anything is.
I drift and stumble.
I am a drunk in the dark of a badly lit street who sings “come, oh happy dagger” as he grips the needle, it’s spike glinting momentarily in the moonlight, and seeks out other who can’t cope, who refuse to cope.
The healthy have no attraction here:
they do not live in this desolate city with its narrow claustrophobic streets that are lined with burnt out shells of what once were houses beneath a vast and empty sky in which the moon swells and secretes its strange frantic energies while swallowing up every last star.
The suggestion of lycanthropy.
Philosophy is an affliction:
Thought a parasite;
An inhuman something,
of the mist.