Thursday, 20 March 2008

Steiner, Hegel,Thought, a Kettle

Dipping into George Steiner's Grammars of Creation, I come across the following, where he is dealing with the philosophical world of Hegel:

Thought is history unfolding in the radical climate of accelerated time created by revolution and world empire.

Now whatever the nature of thought is in the mysterious, silent and invisible dimension of the mind, it seems to me that if in response to the specific question as to what is thought, that thought was to look into the pool of the mind from which it springs, and in pure reflection of itself to pour forth the response that thought is history unfolding in the radical climate of accelerated time created by revolution and world empire...then I would probably be forced to conclude that thought had gone insane.

It is as though one reached into a barrell containing millions of randomly assembled would-be definitions of radically varying degrees of connection to truth, and pulled one mad answer from the pile. Down what darkened and labyrinthine corridors did one have to travel to reach the treasured concept that the nature of thought is the above, and to proclaim it with such confidence?

Naturally, within this scheme of things the thought of thought being history unfolding in the radical climate of revolution and world empire is itself an instance of history unfolding in the radical climate of revolution and world empire in the form of thought. Which is illuminating. And naturally the thought of it being illuminating is a further example of same.

It might be timely to re-post an earlier piece on philosophy, and a definition of much of it described as: Philosophy is the creation of mental problems, the solution to which is forbidden unless it is seen that the solution givs birth to a new problem.

The Prosaic and Philosophy
There might be something to be said for viewing vast swathes of the enquiry into truth known as philosophy as occuring as a monologue within the mind of an individual seated within a rather shabby room, and engaged in the smoking of a regular intake of hashish.
It occurs to this individual that he would like a cup of tea. However, instead of this leading to what one might imagine to be the straightforward, uncomplicated process of getting up to turn on the kettle and the other prosaic processes leading to the desired conclusion of having and drinking the desired cup of tea , certain trains of thought are set in motion within his intoxicated and perhaps somewhat paranoid mind. Key thoughts might include:
Are the asking of this question and the physical activities it may lead to independent acts of a free-thinking and willing individual or is all this determined by processes of which I and the very concept I are mere elements?
To what extent can I consider the thought of the kettle to coincide with the actual kettle in itself?
If my experience of this external reality is received through the senses, and my senses place me at an inevitable distance from what I percive, to what extent can I in turn speak of a kettle in itself existing in a universe within which I also exist?
Do I dare undertake the conjectured tea-making processes, thus embarking on one particular life, and sending to oblivion all the infinity of other lives that I could have embarked upon were I to choose a different course of action.

The above thoughts are simply some key points from which the vastness of the resulting philosophical enquiries could ensue. In this ever expanding monologue, for the sake of clarity within the individual's mind, various tributaries of these lines of enquiry could be labelled under headings such as "Heidegger says" or "Kant claims" or some such. This helping him to keep track of the endless arguments and counter-arguments in the various discussions, such as to what extent it is reasonable to have thoughts about a kettle and tea within the broader context of one's language having a foundation in truth, as opposed to a kind of linguistic hallucination of convenience.

Ideally, having solved all the self-created problems, our hashish consuming individual would then with an easy mind make himself a cup of tea. However, the chances of this happy outcome are more than remote, and in all likelihood he will never arise from his seat, but to give him his due, he will benefit humanity by producing the most entangling of intellectual mazes within which a myriad of other souls can also wander to their great joy.

What, I wonder, happens to his mentioned questions if he simply arises and turns on the kettle?

1 comment:

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