Thursday, June 9, 2011

Latent Emotions In Philosophical Writing

In his Autobiography Collingwood calls philosophy 'a poem of the intellect'. Nietzsche is known to have called philosophy a form of personal confession. And Foucault once said that all of his books were parts of his autobiography. How interesting. I find this relationship between philosophy and personal expression to be really cool, really worthwhile, really curious.

I ask myself about my own attempts at philosophical writing. I wouldn't dare really think of myself as a genuine philosopher. But I read a lot of philosophy. I think about a lot of philosophy. I try to write on it. And I don't feel comfortable with mere analysis of other writers. I strive for synthesis. And I think that this pushes me towards the new.

In the last two months or so the Art, Zen, Insurrection project has fizzled out. For the most part I think I'm okay with it. The truth, I think, is that the project should have ended with Part III.3. Well, but at the same time that isn't true, there is a continuity to pursue all the way to the end of Part IV. It just involves such a large detour to bring it all together. And I don't feel equipped to do it. To write coherently on the relationship between politics and culture seems too difficult, my reading not supporting it enough.

I don't know if I'll ever finish the project. I have no clue.

But I do feel super pleased with the writing that I did leading up to my fizzling out. It was personally valuable stuff. I did a lot of it. It was super fun. I think I stretched myself and came up with lots of new ideas. But now I don't know what to do.

And this is what I really want to talk about: the way that AZI expressed emotions that I was experiencing. At the time I wasn't completely aware of the things I was expressing. My life was changing a lot. I was living in a new city, working a new job, doing all kinds of new things, getting super confused. I was reading tons of new things, pushing myself to write in new ways. I was having all kinds of unreflective experiences that were strange and all over the place.

Only in hindsight can I say that AZI was one of my ways of expressing this confusion. I was baffled by my entry into the working world, I was trying to make sense of how to live in it and to still maintain my sense of myself as an expressive person. How am I to do high paced cafe work that encourages me to be robotic and still be expressive, fun, imaginative? Hard questions. And ones that I was living on a daily basis. I lashed out at first. In particular, I am thinking of this essay and this one too. That first piece, 'In Defense Of Small Talk', was such a desperate attempt to philosophically ground the emotions I was feeling, to intellectualize the pain that my new situation was causing me. I think I was just so wrapped in my emotions that I had to clarify them in some way. And that second piece, 'Bottled Water And Irresponsible Metaphors', was also me trying to get a grip on the emotions that my work was causing me. While in the first piece I was grappling with how people were regarding me in my economically defined role, the second piece focused on how my job forced me to do things that I mentally disapproved of (i.e. stocking bottled water). All of my other philosophical writing, I think, is expressive of my emotions and my experience in some way. But those two pieces and all of AZI are absolutely all about the experiences I have been having for the last year. Oh, the emotion.

In any case, I am pleased that I am starting to understand the ways that my philosophical writing expresses my emotions. And further, how that writing then changes my emotions. This is the phenomenon of 'reflexivity' that I am currently reading about in Roger Smith's Being Human. The bottom line with the humanities and social sciences is that we cannot study humans completely objectively. Any type of study of humanity inevitably changes the thing it is studying. By studying society or by studying minds we change them. When I study my own mind through this writing I change it. And that is the point (duh).

Given all this interaction between my emotions, my writing, my expression, my change, all that business, I have been feeling quite determined to come up with a new bit of writing. I have been having a lot of experiences that I need to grapple with. I have feelings that I need to convert to the intellectual level. This new writing is going to be on relationships, taking the term in its absolute broadest sense. Every person I have ever met I have had a relationship with. All of you coworkers I walk past, all of you regular customers, all of you. We all have relationships. But why do we relate in these particular ways?

I came on this idea of relationships recently. I said to myself at some point, what the hell have we been thinking about? All this jim jam about theory of mind, about philosophy of history, about education, about the imagination, about synthetic experience, about this and that. What the hell am I talking about at the bottom of it all? It occurred to me that the core issue might be that of relationships in general. Framing all of my thinking in terms of relationships might be for the best. This would be a way to deal with a lot of it.

So anyways, the new essay is tentatively titled 'Of Relationships: Bringing The Macro To Bear On The Micro'.

So far I have decided I will have four sections which roughly move from a micro perspective to a macro perspective:

1. Minds
2. Habits
3. Mediums
4. History

I'll begin with theory of mind so that I can establish the tendencies of individual minds. I'll then move to habit to talk about minds from a different angle. Then the issue of mediums and how they create habits. And finally philosophy of history as a way to gain perspective on this stuff.

I envision the structure something like a series of baskets. > > > >.

They will flow. They will fit in. I might have to reverse habits and mediums. But I hope to start filling in the outline a bit more in the next few days.

I think the crucial issue in a way is freedom. I have never felt free. I guess I'm free. But at the same time I've always been aware of all the things determining me or holding me back.

I want the issue to be freedom.

Over and out.

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