Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Another New Short Essay

I have another idea. Something to be explored on a smaller scale. It is something about thought, thinking, and belief. The difference between these things.

It was prompted because a friend told me she hated when people asked her 'what she thought', because it can be so much less clear than that.

It reminded me that I had already made a title for an essay called "Thought and Belief: Being Able to Think Things and Believing Things" In my preliminary notes for that essay I wrote: "What do I believe? Is everything just what I am capable of believing? This is very Foucauldian. I don't 'think' these things, but rather think that someone may think these things."

I still feel this way sometimes. There are times when I write things, write big essays, and it isn't so much 'what I think', but more so an exercise in seeing what I am able to think. Because what I write is certainly not my true convictions. My convictions are changing all the time. I may some rash things about Nihilism or about Buddhism or about empathy, but I don't know if I really think those things. I don't know if I really believe them in my heart of hearts. I more so feel like I am exploring my capacity for thinking different things. Maybe once I taste enough thoughts I'll be able to decide what I 'really believe'.

But it is true that I believe some things. I have certain core convictions. If I didn't believe in something I wouldn't be able to believe in anything at all. There are core convictions that I have, I wonder if it would be appropriate to call them epistemological convictions. They are the beliefs that I have that make it possible for me to have any beliefs at all. I wonder if I could make them explicit. I think this is what Foucault calls an episteme: an overarching structure to knowledge that dictates what I can and cannot think.

This whole thing is inspired partly by a quotation from the end of an interview with Foucault in Power/Knowledge. The interview is called "Power and Strategies." He says some stuff. Then he says "What I have said here is not 'what I think', but often rather what I wonder whether one couldn't think" (145). I really don't know what he means. I'll have to read the interview again. But I think it is an interesting series of questions to ask about what exactly it means to believe something, what it means to think something. What is thought? Is it an essence or is it a process? If there is such a thing as 'what we think' (in the sense of having intellectual convictions), how is it different from 'what we believe', and in that case, what is thought? I have this inkling that thought is an action, a process, a thing you do, and not necessarily something you have. I'm rambling. I don't know what I mean. But that Foucault quotation is interesting. It has interesting implications for Zen and the notion of perpetual transformation. Unclear. But these are new issues I want to work on a bit somehow.


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