My desire and wish is that the things I start with should be so obvious that you wonder why I spend my time stating them. This is what I aim at because the point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as not to seem worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it. – Bertrand Russell
I have an enormous amount of unrealized guilt over this. I have not said it plainly before, skirted around the issue in standard self-deprecation, because it will make this whole blogging thing, even writing thing for me quite fraudulent. I don’t really do Philosophy here, do I?
Two years and 300 essays approx. later, it must be pertinent to ask this question. In fact, I should have probably asked myself before I even started. There is hardly a blog post here that is not tagged #philosophy. I’m sure I’ve even tagged random posts, like the time I posted The Cure’s “Friday, I’m in Love” video for no reason except it being Friday. And it is a niche tag, so it’s not like I am capitalizing on it by casting my net far and wide. But, there must come a day when I put this aside and ask myself, is it really Philosophy?
Perhaps, asking whether is it Philosophy makes it a philosophical question, which solves the question in the affirmative, without even being a rhetorical question. And it is not anything clever because, I believe, all long-terms explorations of Philosophy start with the questions – What is Philosophy? And, How does one do Philosophy?
Even I did it. Well, I did a MOOC (a free, short-term, online course) on Philosophy from Edinburgh University. Partially, because I was interested, and mainly, because I thought I should do something about the fraudulence I felt was going on here. I don’t remember what conclusion was reached (or if there was a conclusion; it is a rare occurrence in doing Philosophy), but I do remember it was amenable, allowing me to go for it without doubt, and asking me to ask sans fear of intellectual intimidation. In the end, I didn’t feel as guilty, and continued with my essaying…
It was further consolation to find the Bertrand Russell quote above. Because, that is what I’ve been doing so long in my career as an essayist. I inquire after simple, everyday things. I don’t research them, but inform myself with my experiences. I keep them light and frivolous, because it would be presumptuous to try to make them deep. And I make them short. And then I leave them, and move on to another as and where and when The Wind of Ideas blows, to be followed by The Cementing of Putting Ideas Down.
Is it Philosophy? I don’t know. Am I doing Philosophy? I don’t know. I haven’t read any of the greats or contemporaries in any depth or width to comment on them. I discuss Great Big Ideas like Love, but with a James McAvoy quote. I’ve lately come to believe I’ve adopted some of the bad habits of the stereotypical social media person – bad grammar (oh, the horror of the first time I wrote ‘their’ instead of ‘there’), confessional narcissism (the essays have slowly gotten to be very “I, Me, Myself”) and most of all, the overwhelming presumption that not only are my life and thoughts interesting, but those who are privileged enough to come by them actually care. I don’t feel I’ve been doing much Philosophy, or anything writerly for that matter, as much as I’ve been confidently going about making a web log of this person’s personality.
The problem isn’t the personality itself, but rather, dwelling too much on one single idea, trying to complicate it, albeit unconsciously. There isn’t anything more that can be figured out. In fact, you’d be disappointed if you didn’t descend into further paradoxes, which means your self-absorption/self-loathing will only get worse.
There was a The Daily Post prompt recently called ‘Blank’. And I thought, what a great idea. Except, I really was blank when trying to come up with something. Now, however, I think it comprehensively solves the question:
How do you do Philosophy?
In doing Philosophy, you deal in blanks. Not try to fill them up with something, for that is literature or life. But, try to find out why blanks exist. What’s the point of them? Why get blanked? Is Life itself a Blank? And on it goes…
How do you do Philosophy?