It has been many years since I last considered pursuing philosophy as a profession. I like my relative stability intensely acquaintances with the funk of life sans the vertigo of managing massively inflated abstractions. I’m also not smart enough. Many of you philobros and sisters are hella slick with the intellect, and I believe overall better suited to such things – and please, people, do continue! I enjoy reading your fantasies and watching your public therapy sessions immensely. And I promise to keep scavenging and squandering all the beautific discourses if you keep generating them. That’s the least I can do.
I wonder, though, in considering the kind of ecosystems (material, media, semiotic) we exist with-in if we in the Western enclaves are all just varieties of lunatics put randomly in-charge of the asylum that is hyper-modern capitalism? Academics, the avant garde, bloggers, oil-riggers, feminists, junkies and used cars salesmen – all of us. Perhaps, “philosophy” in its many iterations and permutations is just a certain kind of lunacy taken up a notch, and weaponized for use on the low-intensity battlefields of institutionalized speculation? Or, to paraphrase the anonymous commenter I quote at length below, aren’t professional philosophers just lunatics like the rest of us, rocking back and forth repeating their “notes” and inquiries, as self-affirmations and mantras, hoping to set up psychic defenses against the dark arts of the world? Coping-beings all?
There are people who ask about reality and go into the laboratory or go the route of high level mathematical abstractions, and there are those who work from the nihilistic constraints of Darwinian axioms and are happy to remain within more or less modest statements. The particular problem of the philosopher seems to be his fundamental autism. He doesn’t for a second even begin to understand the world. The world itself- or words like the Real or Being or what have you- are his problem because, holy shit, he hasn’t got a clue what it is or how to operate in it.
Philosophy doesn’t begin in wonder or in disappointment or in the discovery of systematic error per se, it begins in the traumatic horror that I don’t know how to live- I’m a sick man, a maladjusted animal, I mean, look at the others, the millions of others, who seems perfectly content to get on with their lives without ever once really getting stuck on the question of consciousness. The philosopher is sick, damaged, wounded. And not in a romantic swooning way…
This is a time when ISIS is as seductive as Socrates and we’re all trying our best to keep up beat in the face of our own irrelevance and probably annihilation. The end of a cycle? The next stage? I’m sure there is a clever way to talk about it. We’d be just as well calling it what it is: self-induced catastrophe. We’re like the suicide who has jumped from the bridge and changes his mind on the way down. Too late- better make the fall pass more pleasantly, better survive while we plummet and plunge. So we see a resurgence again of that idea of philosophy as a way of life, we see the continued appeals to mysticism Western and Eastern, we see the religious fundamentalisms and their soothing solutions. [source]
And here we are playing in the cyber-muck attempting, with variable effort, to augment “the happy madness of everyday deludedness and self-deception”. But for what ends?
Harold Bloom, an old gnostic fabulist – if there ever was one, once described our universe as a Cosmic Disaster Zone, that the moment of creation was a catastrophe from which we’ve never recovered. For Zizek this catastrophe is an ontological fable of our brokenness, all the up and down. We exist in a realm of pure antagonistic chaos, caught between the mesh of a Lacanian Borromean knot of the Imaginary, Symbolic, and Real; and all our systems of finitude are but the apotropaic charms of the Human Security System (Land), our ideological and fictional safety net we’ve constructed around us, a flimsy film against the monstrous truth: a system that seeks to stave off and defend us from the incursion of the Abyss of the Real. To ‘traverse the fantasy’ is to become like Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost a navigator of the Abyss. Call it madness, call it Chaos and old Night, call it what you will: the bottom line is that the open wound and trauma of this catastrophe is what drives us onward, our creative and inventive power we so lamely term the human condition hides the inhuman core of our non-being. The spur to our creativity is this very death-drive, both our glory and our sorrow. (Hickman) [source]
I’ll call it Χάος (Khaos), with its dark flesh creeping out into an expansive hyperverse, creating pockets of cosmos with tiny strains life coping, and struggling, and fucking, and speculating their way through existence. And I’ll embrace it because it is me (the very material of ‘I am-ness’), and because there is zer0 that can escape the wild pre-conscious immanence of being.
Even our language and significations participate; which is why Kant was wrong – or at least right in a way he didn’t intend – and the endgame of our attempts to flee the correlationist circle will always result in a return to our experiences of and as the funkadelic flesh of things. Coping-with and rationalizing the world forces us into violent and productive confrontation with the constituent madness at the extimate core life. From this register, perhaps its healthier to stop hiding and just be the best lunatic we can, remaining paranoid and schizoid and nomadic in our confrontations with and as the Real?
I can imagine Slavoj Žižek having his Joker war-paint on when he wrote:
[A]t its most radical, the unnamable Unconscious is not external to Logos, it is not its obscure background, but, rather, the very act of Naming, the very founding gesture of Logos. The greatest contingency, the ultimate act of abyssal madness, is the very act of imposing a rational Necessity onto the pre-rational chaos of the Real. The true point of “madness” is thus not the pure excess of the Night of the World, but the madness of the passage to the Symbolic itself, of imposing a symbolic order onto the chaos of the Real… If madness is constitutive, then every system of meaning is minimally paranoiac, “mad.” [source]
This is the way of things; a creeping unknown that requires a khaotic embrace with new identifications.
My understanding is that philosophy is the introduction of an idea that changes the way humanity thinks from that point on. I wish I could quote a source on this. But it is a fundamental swing in human understanding. The best example I can propose is Christianity (possibly the worst example). The idea of God as Love was unheard of before our era. God was to be feared. His laws were to be followed at the penalty of death by stoning. After Christianity, it became the norm. Today, God is Love. Another example is the American Declaration of Independence and the ideal of “life, liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Before the founding fathers penned those words, the idea of Happiness as something a government is obligated to produce did not exist. American Democracy invented that idea and, it too, has changed what we expect of life. To me, then, philosophy is not just drinking coffee and pondering. It is a productive endeavor, not so much to understand life, but to help life progress. To answer your question of the futility we face in our present crazytime, what we need is a philosophy that would build a bridge across the chasm we have fallen into.
Philosophy as “productive” experiments in lunacy for hallucinatory coping as a form of life? Tool for bridging, tool.. supplement.. like a pharmakon!
Interesting. Yes, coping through a hallucinatory reality. That seems to be happening. The legalization of Marijuana, and the use of low dose LSD and psilocybin as productivity enhancers. Maybe.
V.A-C, it would be great if the use of consciousness altering chemicals would give people a lived sense of how our everyday “straight” consciousness is also the side-effects of chemical processes but tragically most people seem instead to con-fuse their drug induced hallucinations with new doors of perception to direct reality, not sure how we could meaningfully hack such experiences to be more post-nihilistic and less inflating, any thoughts?
I disagree; partly. Humanity has always gotten high. The only variation is what particular groups talk about what’s going on. My actual love life, for example, does not proceed by any Marxism, or existential, kantian, Platonic. Nor any ‘philosophical paradigm’. It is only when I begin to discuss things along particular (thought oriented or intellectual) lines that then I might find my self in a ‘capitalist’ ideology. Otherwise I just live and act, obtain and exchange things, as humanity has always done. The theoretical items say nothing of any ‘true world ‘ let alone a philosophical world, what ever that might be.
Only within certain contextual linkages can I set myself in any history manner. But as I live, such type of ‘philosophy’ bares little on my going about living.
And.. I think the philosophers who don’t or haven’t gotten high hardly deserve the title.
And…people are crazy without philosophy, but where they propose a ‘sanity’ – they gotta be the craziest ones, as well , perpetuating dishonesty and greed. (Wait; what did I say about capitalism ?).
it would be great if the use of consciousness altering chemicals would give people a lived sense of how our everyday “straight” consciousness is also the side-effects of chemical processes
I’ve seen firsthand how this conclusion is arrived at by people under the influence of consciousness-altering chemicals, and if you look past the flowery language in a lot of online ‘psychonaut’ communities you’ll see that this is actually fairly common. Unfortunately though the tendency you talk about is definitely prominent, though I feel its getting replaced by a more destructive tendency to simply treat consciousness alterers as nothing more than a party drug that provides nothing more than a distraction from the conditions of everyday life.
hey e.b.my sense is that despite the occasional hype there is nothing particularly radical about such drugs/reactions in that they tend to hit and leave people much like they were; some with a god-complex, most of a consumer/entertainment-seeker bent , and than a tiny mutant fringe of materialist/experimentalists, but perhaps with new technologies we might tweak this all a bit.
Yeah, and going with that the people who do seem to gain insight into chemical nature of ‘straight consciousness’ rarely find ways to apply that realization, aside from certain trippy insights into things.
-but perhaps with new technologies we might tweak this all a bit.
I’m curious to hear your speculations on this!
nothing immediate on the radar just some scifi-ish bits and pieces of current neuroscience and VR, been part of some work with sims and VR as exposure therapies for vets with PTSD (all of whom are drugged to the gills on various med-cocktails and whatever they are taking off the books, not exactly gengineered white mice as subjects, but this is treatment and not basic research which I know other folks are doing but is still very primitive) and so not too hard to imagine some future projects getting more integrated with our bodies if the various engineering/research infrastructures can be maintained (ha!).
–I’ll call it Χάος (Khaos), with its dark flesh creeping out as hyperverse and creating pockets of cosmos with tiny strains life coping, and struggling, and fucking, and speculating their way through existence. And I’ll embrace it, because it is me (the very material of ‘I am-ness’), and because there is zer0 that can escape the wild Unconscious immanence of being.
Would you consider such a perspective to be more in line with a mechanism for ‘speculative coping’ geared towards a sort of internal ‘care of the self’, or do you see a way to apply such insights in an external political manner? Besides the foundation of experimental ethical forms, I’ve been having a hard time of late making the leap between philosophical reflection to praxis as a concrete act.
Ha, ha… the madness! Yes, I’ve written of my own early involvement in mind-altering substances in Visionary Materialism: Entheogens, Magic, and the Sciences: https://socialecologies.wordpress.com/2014/05/10/visionary-materialism-entheogens-magic-and-the-sciences/
Tell the truth, for me experience came first, philosophy after the deluge… Between Viet Nam, its aftermath, my wandering in the sub-cultures of hippy-dom and traveling through indigenous and tribal cultures from Sioux, Navajo, and South American realms with friends who were adept at biochemistry and Entheogenic studies I, too, affirm that what poets like Rimbaud were seeking in the escape from the organized consciousness by way of a short-circuiting of reason is true of certain visionary drugs. The Real as the pre-ontologized or organized imposition of our Symbolic Codes is quite expansive and different than this little box of perceptive reason we’ve built to defend ourselves from the flow of things… I think William Blake said it best:
“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.”
In fact what Blake sought was not a return to the pre-Ontological forms of consciousness, which is impossible anyway, but rather to attain a higher organization of innocence a new form of reason unbounded by the finitude of our limited prison-worlds of the present Symbolic Order. He felt in his age it was Newton’s mathematical and geometricized world of Enlightenment Reason that had closed us off in a false cave of reason. That there was a possible exit from this false form into a higher stage of reason and imagination. In some ways that old cogitator Zizek is close, but is still stuck in the traps of philosophical returns to German idealism that keep him from breaking out… maybe that’s where we’re at: the point we need to let the dead philosophers bury the dead and create something new…
I appreciate the spirit of that but I think it’s not unlike trying to invent, or convey, or incorporate novelty/avant-garde (all that comes up in the workings of noise and signals) where we need some habits/context or else we can’t function, as for the more literal-minded purification/alchemical aspects I’ll leave the higher powers/realms/etc to others so inclined.
For me (for what it’s worth) it’s more about trying to overcome the tyranny of the means down here at ground level in the midst of things, part of why I liked: https://syntheticzero.net/2016/01/22/cyberqueen-eczema-angel-orifice/
That zizek quote is from Event, i belive. Btw.