• Wayfarer
    13k
    He said, during the course of the conversation, and somewhat tongue-in-cheek, 'the Greeks, the Medievals, the Germans - that's all you have to know, the rest is rubbish!' :-)
    — Wayfarer

    Does this say anything about the bias he may have had at the time of his conversation?
    Don Wade

    As I say, it was tongue-in-cheek, perhaps exagerrated for effect. But he was, as far as I could tell, a lecturer or professor in academic philosophy, specifically metaphysics (he was urging the student he was talking to to enrol in post-grad studies, from what I could tell), and I think there's some truth in it. Much 20th century philosophy no longer engages with the classical concerns of philosophy.

    One thing I’ve learned from my reading is that many of the most influential philosophers throughout history have one or both of two interesting characteristics: they are notoriously difficult to understand, and/or their philosophical position is far from static.Possibility

    'A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines' ~ Emerson, Self-Reliance.
  • T Clark
    5.9k
    I sometimes feel that I should be reading Kant and Schopenhauer, and I have read portions of their writings. When I do read the philosophers I try to do so as if I was meeting them as individuals, as great minds to learn from.Jack Cummins

    I want to make clear that I don't deny the value of these writers. I think I used to, but I have met people who were saved by Kant, Dante, or other classical writer. I mean that seriously, if not entirely literally. I find it moving to read about the differences those authors made in people's lives. I recognize the value, it's just not my way.
  • Banno
    13.5k
    I am going to ignore your insult...thewonder

    What insult? I didn't think I'd got there yet...
  • Jack Cummins
    3.3k

    I wouldn't worry about getting the mods to delete the bit of disagreement you had on the thread, because it doesn't interfere too much with the flow of the discussion. You could go back and edit any of your own posts. If you ask for a all the discussion between you and Banno to be removed it may mean that they have to delete this whole thread. I don't want the entire thread to be deleted because there are comments which I plan to reply to during today.
  • Jack Cummins
    3.3k

    I think that we do approach life and writers from different angles. Some people don't need to delve into books, and it probably also depends on whether we have any mentors in our lives. I think that Carl Jung and his idea of the collective unconscious, probably saved me, along with William Blake and, a few bands like U2 and REM.
    But, of course, you have Lao Tzu to inspire you.
  • Tom Storm
    1.6k
    I mean that seriously, if not entirely literally. I find it moving to read about the differences those authors made in people's lives. I recognize the value, it's just not my way.T Clark

    That is intriguing. I have heard people say this occasionally about fiction writers (never philosophy) but I always assumed it was hyperbole. I've enjoyed writers and books but nothing I've read has ever made a difference to my overall happiness (as far as I can tell). I think I got any consolation I ever needed from classical music.
  • Jack Cummins
    3.3k

    I do agree that it is helpful to have threads which are based on specific ideas, and they probably work better than those which are just created from people's own opinions. Even if there is not one specific text being used, it is usually apparent if the person who is writing it has done any background research.

    With philosophy, as it is about ideas, it is easy for people to think that they can say anything they wish to. However, in the twenty first century, it does seem to me that any serious discussion needs a certain amount of academic rigour.
  • Jack Cummins
    3.3k

    I do agree that this forum can be an alternative to the sheer academia of university, but with a certain amount of knowledge being of great importance. I think that it is a fine balance. On the last academic course I did, which was mandatory for work, every single point in writing had to be backed up by a published writer. As there was a strict word limit, and so much to cover, there was not even any room for discussion of the quality of the research being cited. The validity of the research was simply that it was published and that meant it counted as evidence. It seemed so ridiculous that I decided that I was never going to do an academic course again, and would write fiction instead as opposed to evidence based research.

    When I get into discussions on the forum, I often become aware of great gaps in my knowledge. Some of the posts I look at are completely over my head. Even without evidence based research, there is just so much specialised knowledge. It is hard to juggle between getting a broad philosophy overview and following specific lines of thinking.I am more inclined to prefer to see the advantages and disadvantages of various perspectives, but I think that a lot of people on the site have preference for people who are committed to specific viewpoints.

    I like your comment about how a lot of the importance thinkers were misunderstood is reassuring for most of us, because, generally, I think people who are interested in philosophy are regarded as a bit eccentric. I read an article which suggested that Dostoevsky could barely tie his own shoelaces, although it is unclear whether it was true. But, I did wonder if he could have been dyspraxia. I believe that I am dyspraxia because I could never catch a ball and I am so poor at household tasks, like cleaning. Someone told me that I must have learning difficulties because I am so poor at practical tasks. I think that many people are too inclined to label others and not try to understand anyone who is a bit different.
  • Pantagruel
    1.7k
    it may be possible to become so immersed in the ideas of others that we may start to drown our own individual voicesJack Cummins

    This may be a good thing. I think that a sensible balance is best, but you have to have that constant influx of information. There are a lot of books waiting to be read! At the end of the day, my goal is to enhance the functioning of my own mind, and that requires information. Why would I try to do that by pulling myself up by my own bootstraps when generations of people have already dedicated so much time and effort to the project?
  • TheMadFool
    10.7k
    Interesting question by all accounts and standards but in a sense, sorry to say, misguided.

    An analogy is in order but do take this with a grain of sodium chloride. Everything, if not most things, come in some kind of container as it were. So, milk comes in cartons, gas comes in tanks, chocolate comes in packets,..., information comes in books. As a matter of course, the container is usually disposable i.e. the contents are what matters. Books, whether paper-based or electronic, by extension the written word, are containers in that they hold information and if most containers are dispensable, books too should be dealt in a similar fashion if only for the sake of consistency.

    Now, it must be borne in mind that some containers, whatever might be inside them, are themselves of great interest in that they have some kind of intrinsic value. Books in particular and language in general maybe valuable in and of themselves and more likely than not worthy of formal study.

    However, the truth is a book is, all said and done, primarily a medium for recording and transmitting information and, sometimes, misinformation. That being the case, to be concerned by reading (books) is barking up,the wrong tree. If it so happens that information could be put on a better medium than books, we would be asking the same question about whatever medium that is. That, of course, is a fascinating in itself but is, in a way, to miss the point.
  • Don Wade
    185
    With philosophy, as it is about ideas, it is easy for people to think that they can say anything they wish to. However, in the twenty first century, it does seem to me that any serious discussion needs a certain amount of academic rigour.Jack Cummins

    I agree. The trick seems to be in: "who decides how much rigour is required?. It seems to be an "unwritten" specification. And, it probably depends on who is having the discussion - and with whom. In academia, writing requirements are often dictated - but not so often in a discussion.
  • 180 Proof
    4.8k
    If you don't read, you know fuck all.Banno
    :point: :100:
  • Jack Cummins
    3.3k

    It is interesting how you point out the role of interpretation and I see your point. Certainly, in another thread there is discussion about consciousness and it appears that this word has such different meanings for different people on the forum. So, it does depend on the frame of reference.

    However, I think that we are able to develop the frames of reference. I can remember at age 16 reading Shakespeare's 'King Lear' and reading all kinds of ideas into it, which I can see now were ludicrous, because they were based on the ideas which came much later, so he would not have been aware of them. I was failing to understand within the Elizabethan world picture. So, it is about being able to step inside the viewpoint of the author as far as that is possible. The more we understand the context in which they are writing this makes it more possible. If we were studying the ideas of Lacan, for instance, the more familiar we are with postmodernism and psychoanalysis makes it more likely that we will make a more correct interpretation of what the writer is saying.

    The biggest danger, of course, is that areas of thought become so specialised, relying on jargon. However, I do agree with the interpretation problem, however clearly we try to write. Some books are so ambiguous, and a most obvious one which we discussed about a month ago is Jung's 'Answer to Job'.
  • Manuel
    1.2k


    Yes, reading is fundamental. So is interchanging ideas with others.

    On the other hand, I've known cases of people who read certain books and just get completely lost from rational discourse. So, one has to be a bit careful.
  • Jack Cummins
    3.3k

    I see your point about containers and recordings, but I do see this as the best possible source for viewing the ideas of the past. I would love to be able to meet Kant, Kierkergaard, Sartre, with you and others on the forum, and discuss metaphysics, while drinking coffee, but as that is not possible, reading is the best option.

    As it is, people are beginning to do things a bit differently now, with the internet and videos. But, I am a big fan of books, so I am glad I don't have to watch videos of all the most famous thinkers of the past, although it would be interesting to see what they really looked like, rather than how we imagine them.
  • thewonder
    1k

    You were insinuating that I was a waffle, which is clearly an insult. I don't really care, though.
  • TheMadFool
    10.7k
    I see your point about containers and recordings, but I do see this as the best possible source for viewing the ideas of the past. I would love to be able to meet Kant, Kierkergaard, Sartre, with you and others on the forum, and discuss metaphysics, while drinking coffee, but as that is not possible, reading is the best option.

    As it is, people are beginning to do things a bit differently now, with the internet and videos. But, I am a big fan of books, so I glad I don't have to watch videos of all the most famous thinkers of the past, although it would be interesting to see what they really looked like, rather than how we imagine them.
    Jack Cummins

    Books are essentially information coded in light - shapes, sizes, color, spaces, are certain features of writing that seem to matter but, all things considered, they're basically characteristics of light, at least in the sense they have to be seen to be interpreted correctly.

    Notice that written language, though light-based, is actually about sound. So, though the word "light" is in light-mode, its meaning is in the sound lait. In other words, when we're reading, what we're really doing is listening.

    I was wondering about what the first word ever spoken was. My theory is that, supposing the first spoken word is x, x has to be, its more likely that, something heard instead of seen. To symbolize something seen with a sound is harder, requiring the ability to associate two different kinds of information (visual to auditory) than mimicking (auditory to auditory) what's heard in my humble opinion. Thus, the first words every spoken would've been sounds mimicking prey, predators, water, etc. I digress though.
  • Jack Cummins
    3.3k

    It is hard to get the right balance between being swamped by information and thinking ones own thoughts and finding one's own writing voice. Really, it would be wonderful to be so captivated by another's way that it influenced the whole perception. I have seen books on how to write like Hemmingway, and it would be such an experiment to try to write like Nietzsche or Sartre, for example. It does seem that even on this forum we all have our own unique styles. I worry about churning out replies and threads in a samey way, like the familiar formula beats and chords of a Status Quo song.
  • Jack Cummins
    3.3k

    I probably don't wish to digress too much into the subject of light here, as I created a thread on the metaphysics of light. However, I do love reading on à kindle, which really has its own inner light.

    It is hard to know what the first human words were, but it does seem that children begin saying mama and papa. I can remember as a child being given a notebook to draw in and filling it with squiggles from cover to cover, and telling my mum that I had been writing.

    But, going back to first languages, I think that they may have been more sophisticated than we imagine, because there was Rome and Egypt. Obviously, we don't know what came before but the development of Sanskrit and other early alphabets and symbols does indicate high levels of thought. Cultures like the Aborigines also seem to be complex, and I do believe that anthropology is a very important field for thinking about the development of humanity.
  • Jack Cummins
    3.3k

    I am probably not systematic enough in my reading. I have started a collection of writings on Plotinus, Sartre's 'Being and Nothingness,' and reading several other non fiction ones, and about 3 novels. I have downloaded so many books, about 1500 on my Kindle and I got a free tablet with my phone. I worked out how to download on that and discovered recently that I can't download any more because it has its maximum amount of large files. Fortunately, the majority of the books I got were free. But, I am trying to get through some of my paper books as well. I like to read about 5 books a week, but it does depend on how big they are and what they are. Some books can be read in one sitting, whereas others have to be read slowly.

    I have read Plato's 'Republic' and 'Phaedo'. I do find overviews helpful and I reread Bertrand Russell's ' History of Western Philosophy' recently. I have been planning to start Iris Murdock's 'Existentialism and Mystics', ever since the thread on mysticism. So, I will be busy, and not enough hours in a day really, especially as I am applying for jobs as well. But, when I was working in the past, I used to try to read for a bit before going to work, because reading can be so meditational.
  • Jack Cummins
    3.3k

    I think that it can be helpful having guidelines for writing but I prefer room to maneuver. While studying there were just so many rules and regulations, that there seemed to be no scope for creativity. I like a blank white space on a paper or a screen and the potential it has rather than being given too much structure. At one stage, I used to write morning pages, as suggested by Julia Cameron in, 'The Artist's Way', which was to write 3 pages of thoughst as soon as possible each morning. I did this for about a year and I felt that it was a really helpful practice for reflection.
  • Jack Cummins
    3.3k

    I think that you are right to stress the danger of reading so much that one can become lost from
    'rational discourse'. If I have been reading a lot I sometimes find that I bring unusual words into conversation and people look a bit puzzled and I have to remember not to do this. But, in the house I am living in I am the only one whose first language is English, so I am getting practice at trying to speak as simply as possible.
  • Manuel
    1.2k


    Very much so. One can get caught up in fancy jargon and people get confused unnecessarily.

    Since this is a philosophy forum, I won't mention any specific philosophers, but, I had in mind people reading someone like, Deepak Chopra and getting lost in almost total verbal salad which often grossly distorts the relevant science, usually quantum physics in his case.

    But there are certain philosophical traditions that I personally think lead to irrationality. Of course, that's a very personal preference which varies from person to person.
  • Tom Storm
    1.6k
    I like to read about 5 books a week,Jack Cummins

    Goodness. Do you find you have really absorbed and understood this many books in one week? What is your memory of them some time later?
  • Jack Cummins
    3.3k

    I don't usually remember the novels unless they are outstanding. With the non fiction, I usually remember the ones which seem really important and try and read them again at some point. But, I have probably always read that amount of books, and I have a few eye problems, which may be from eyestrain, so try not to read too much late at night.

    My view is that mornings are for reading, afternoons for doing important activities and evenings for relaxing to music, but, of course I like the heavy stuff whereas you like the classical.
  • Jack Cummins
    3.3k

    I have only read a little Deepak Chopra, but I have a friend who thinks he is wonderful. However, discussion of quantum physics can be like 'word salad'. But, my best recommendation for word salad is James Joyce's, 'Finnegan's Wake', but it is meant to capture the whole idea of the stream of consciousness.
  • Manuel
    1.2k


    You are open to many possibilities, that's a good trait in general.

    I'd only be careful in taking science out of context, that could be if not dangerous, then problematic at least when attempting to make sense of evidence.

    Some people love Finnegans Wake. Can one call it a novel? I suppose. I can't read much into it. But in the arts, whatever moved you or gets you thinking is legitimate, I think.
  • Valentinus
    1.3k

    I agree that good reading involves "being able to step inside the viewpoint of the author as far as that is possible." But I don't subscribe to making the historical context the last word on the experiences. To open oneself up to listen to what is being said, the reader must be addressed directly. Socrates is kicking my ass along with Gorgias'. The jester in King Lear does not have a high regard for my judgements either. Spinoza is appealing directly to me to come to my senses. Kafka says: "I am the problem; No scholar to be found far and wide." You don't get to talk that way if you don't look for one first.

    Regarding interpretation, it shows up too early in the game of reading together. The words are barely formed and they are immediately painted. I am sympathetic to Susan Sontag's Against Interpretation for this reason. We have a lifetime to form opinions. The encounters are few and easily missed.

    I think the project of the dialectic, where we struggle with each other to develop a better understanding, is at odds with the vision of an encyclopedia where the universe has been mapped and everything and every concept is in a place that can be related to each other.
  • T Clark
    5.9k
    But, of course, you have Lao Tzu to inspire you.Jack Cummins

    Yeah, but he didn't save me. He just picked me up and gave me a ride.
  • T Clark
    5.9k
    That is intriguing. I have heard people say this occasionally about fiction writers (never philosophy) but I always assumed it was hyperbole. I've enjoyed writers and books but nothing I've read has ever made a difference to my overall happiness (as far as I can tell).Tom Storm

    As I said, I've never had much respect for the convoluted thought processes of our western great philosophers. I was shocked when someone I care about and respect told me how much Kant had meant to them. How his and others' writing had provided a safe mental space in a difficult life. That wasn't the only time I heard about something like that. I still like to joke about how these guys can take something so simple and wonderful and make it impenetrable and painful. But I always keep my friend in the back of my mind.
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