In or Out

There are two predominant sounds I can hear as I type: the rumble of pigeons and car wheels on the lightly rained-on roads. As I type that, I remember some kind of Buddhist fair at Central Park years ago; one of the talks suggested meditation begins through the leading out of oneself by concentrating on sounds.
It is interesting to consider the explanatory methods of life, the different ways of being. In a review of Nagel's controversial Cosmos book, Wieseltier reviews the nature of the criticism the book has received - that it will be used by "enemies" of materialism, and support for materialism that uses rhetorical techniques once used by religion - fideism: suspension of rational argument and retreat to mystery. Wieseltier points out that today, scientists consider they have the right to philosophise (and dictate literature?). I wonder if this comes from Kant's first locating philosophy in science, such as in his use of Copernican "factum".
Wieseltier also points out that the kind of criticism Nagel's book is garnering is not what, "Bruno, Galieleo, Newton... and the other victims of the anti-philosophical Vatican had in mind." So he is sensitive to context, but has no problem assigning people to the camps of either the religious or materialist. I think that being so comfortable in such labelling shows how fickle our age is and how we do not actually respect free thought. Why is it that if one has convictions, one is considered less objective? We are already limited by space and time, to name one's "terministic screens" is but to be honest and transparent. One of the signs of zeal is that one cannot stand different arguments. I'd like to take as my model Socratic dialogue, but it's the hardest way to go, being the widest and narrowest; the most personal and most general.


Along these lines, Gadamer has written that along with Heidegger there originated a new atmosphere in which it is hard to find one's way, yet this does not mean that Heidegger is responsible for all Heideggerians. Strong thinkers figure things out for themselves: it is their lesser followers that make precepts, dogmas, and such from their thoughts: it is the followers (to use an Arnoldian term) who mechanise the ideas. To have convictions is to figure out how to apply all the components to each new day. This is what is meant by Gadamer's and Ricoeur's idea that tradition or cultural uniqueness can be revitalised again and again - always in a new way, according to how they are adapted to the present. But this cannot be done if one is automatically antagonistic to people with different views, for it is only by understanding them that one can understand one's own place in the present world. The image I have to demonstrate this is of that story I keep telling here of a girl I'd met who saved a friend's life by almost risking her own.
So in addition to Wieseltier's point that scientists forget that philosophy may exist independently of them, I would also add that literature, and its various genres, ought to also have space for its own take on life. Chesterton writes of the primacy of the fairy tale. "Modern minor poets are naturalists, and talk about the bush of the brook; but the singers of the old epics and fables were supernaturalists, and talked about the gods of brook and bush, That is what the moderns mean when they say that the ancients did not 'appreciate Nature', because they said that Nature was divine. Old nurses do not tell children about the grass, but about the fairies that dance on the grass; and the old Greeks could not see the trees for the dryads." He writes, "I am concerned with a certain way of looking at life, which was created in me by the fairy tales."
There is something to be said of the cathartic. But the cathartic today needs to take all points into the picture, and I think that art has a responsibility to tell the story of the "mental atmosphere of the modern world". Cars, birds, a universe painted and locked in the mind, like the Koreshans thought: this is our starting point, the end is up to the artist; we live according to the endings we build.


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