Thursday, October 6, 2011

'Needles Complexity'

Recently I had coffee a philosophically adept friend. Me and him are always able to talk about a lot of different things. And I feel like I leap on him as someone that I can express myself philosophically with. I know that he can handle most of the references I want to make, and that he has the ability and the patience to try and understand my ideas.

I was explaining an idea I was working on in June and July. The issue of mediums and minds. The mind is the medium. Or the medium is the mind. The major question was what is the mind. According to Collingwood mind is what mind does. Mind, however, can only do through a medium. The mind is the medium, therefore.

That is a simplification of it. There were all kinds of other issues and questions that led me to that statement. And I don't even really like the statement. You can check out Part I and Part II of the project if you care at all.

But in the process of explaining those ideas I frustrated my friend a little. He said that one reason he grew increasingly frustrated with philosophy was the needless complexity of it all. We had been talking a little bit about Kant. And he was expressing that sentiment with Kant. But my statement made him think of the issue too.

I totally understand. Philosophy does seem needlessly complex. I spin these logical webs. I make things sound reasonable when I'm probably just full of shit. This is why I've written blog posts called 'Swimming Timidly Into My Logical Fantasy'.

I worry about needless complexity in my own writing.

But at the same time I know something else is going on. This isn't just me being full of shit. I am genuinely attempting to think. I am trying to work hard on problems. I am trying to think about all kinds of different issues. And yeah, maybe it ends up in this weird complex writing. But that isn't what it is all about.

And what do you know. Mr. Collingwood has a quotation that completely captures my feelings. I remember how exciting it was when I was reading The Principles Of Art. Collingwood explains how the philosopher is not someone who seeks (needlessly) complex theories or systems. But someone who seeks clarity. Someone who wants to chase down difficult problems. Someone who enjoys the journey of thought. The philosopher's "business lies not in holding this view or that, but in aiming at some view not yet achieved: in the labour and adventure of thinking, not in the results of it. What a genuine philosopher (as distinct from a teacher of philosophy for the purposes of examination) tries to express when he writes is the experience he enjoys in the course of this adventure, where theories and systems are only incidents in the journey" (The Principles Of Art, 297). Great stuff. Helpful stuff.

All of my writing is process oriented. I never know what I am going to end up writing or thinking. I just move with my thoughts. I try to clarify them.

So often my writing comes out highly outlined, highly organized, very systematic. But I totally agree that those systems are incidental to the process of thought.

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