Pure Reason

Quarter of three in the morning.

I can remember the first times when I experienced transcendence of mundane reality, or getting my landing gear off the ground. It was when I heard lectures on Kantian idealism in a philosophy survey course. I somehow escaped my temporal existence and sort of floated around as a severed rational head. But this mental state was not really rational, although it was very cerebral. I haven’t looked through Kant’s books in quite a while, but the effect would be intoxicating for me, and that’s the whole point of some philosophy; therefore is it really true? It joins you with the Ideal, or a certain state of mind suggesting an otherworld of perfect bliss, but I was told by a coworker that it was irresponsible and I should grow out of it. I was only 21 at the time. Now I think I can judge for myself how irresponsible I was to indulge in castles in the air. And would anybody else judge me for having found the secret to Eldorado? 

A Small Success

Three thirty.

I waited for a week, but now I’ve finally replaced the batteries in the bitchy smoke alarm that had been really bugging me. It’s a beautiful soft sunny afternoon with a little breeze, like so many Septembers in the past. As usual my mind is torn between the material and the spiritual; but it wouldn’t be so hard if the “spiritual” was taken only psychologically and not literally for an ontological fact. Even Jung said something similar to that. Ever since looking at Plotinus I’ve felt quite confused, not knowing about God. It seems to be just another style of thinking about reality. But there’s something quite satisfying to the arguments of logical positivists like Carnap, cutting away everything non empirical and concentrating on what is realistic. The arguments for either side are very compelling, as far as I can tell. If I were good at mathematics, then I would tackle Russell’s work in analytic philosophy; yet even math can be manipulated to support one perspective or the other. In the end you go with your gut feeling. I was sad yesterday because I couldn’t find my little red book of Lucretius that I bought when my dad died. I know where to find my volume of Charles Fort from the same period of my life, and also The Epicurus Reader. However you slice it, the information is unavailable to humankind. We can philosophize till doomsday from an armchair and never get any closer to the truth. For the time being, I’m glad to have fixed my smoke detector. It still makes a little peep, though much better than before. The real difference is in my mental condition today. 

Written with a Gut Ache

Nine twenty five.

My book of Plotinus arrived this evening while I was napping. So, after checking the order status with Amazon, I went out to the end of my driveway to get it out of my mailbox. I wasn’t bothered by Aesop’s barking as I was going through the front door. A few minutes later I examined the book: it’s a little gem of scholarship with an austere black cover, and published by Hackett. I started scanning the Introduction, which goes into pretty dense exposition of The One; and I thought, This little book may be the same edition as the one used by Yes, if the band indeed was familiar with Plotinus. Then again, the concept of The One is also Indian, from the Rig Veda, and far more ancient than Neoplatonism. Now I need to learn what is meant by this idea. So far I only know that The One is unknowable to the senses, and is available solely to the intelligence; basically a Platonic notion from Republic and Symposium. The difficulty of the concept for me is that it multiplies entities, making ontology more complex than necessary to explain the things that exist and the events that happen. I guess that makes me a nominalist rather than an essentialist… so all the spiritual arguments are lost on me. The principle of parsimony has always persuaded me because of its simplicity, even though materialism rouses hostility in many people. And the reason for that is that human beings are vain…

Anyway, I will read further in Plotinus to see where it goes, but I think it’s kind of predictable. Funny but while I was writing the above, I had a gut ache, which now is relieved as I reach my conclusion. Or is there really something to mind over matter, so that people like Plotinus have a good point? 

Words in Stone

Quarter of nine.

My mind is made up to stay home today, no church. I don’t like the way Christians persecute gay people. Life is hard enough without the shadow of the Church hanging over those who don’t fit the same mold. It’s getting more difficult for anybody to figure out where they belong and what they ought to be. A person does well to be insightful and choose prudently for herself and not be led astray. Everyone wants the world to resemble themselves, and for this reason they may give us bad advice about who we are. Ultimately it’s up to oneself to decide on identity and tune out all the confusion from others. Personally I’ll never see another therapist again. Psychology is a cannibal; I don’t trust it at all because everyone seeks a mirror in other people. At some point the wilderness of reflections ends and you arrive at the stone of your foundation; but you must do this alone, like Zarathustra musing in his cave.

I don’t know if I’ll hear from my sister today or not; it depends on whether she’s alone at home. Her Bible is not the answer for me. Probably I’d just as soon be by myself today. Family for me is not the cornerstone of all beliefs and attitudes; I don’t owe them any debts of fealty to their narrow mindedness. The problem is that they don’t really think about anything. It’s all just a knee jerk reaction without being self aware. It’s even a taboo for us to “think about ourselves.” And that’s unfortunate. The inscription in stone over the entrance to the Oracle at Delphi reads, “Know yourself.” 

Defeating the Myth

Four twenty five.

I just ordered the Hackett one volume of Plato from Amazon. Free one day shipping. It ought to be a thing of beauty when it arrives in the mail tomorrow night. Around the time I left my job I used my work earnings to buy the Princeton edition of Plato, which I later sold to Tsunami Books— and kicked myself. I had still another copy of it, but the one I bought with my own labor was special, and I sacrificed it to my addiction to alcohol. Plato said that the three most characteristic results of tyranny in the individual are drunkenness, lust, and madness. Therefore it’s significant that I overturned the self discipline of Plato for the tyranny of addiction. I was 41 years old the last time I purchased a one volume Plato, so much younger and more foolish than today. 

How does addiction take hold of a person, and how does it go away? It could be a matter of claiming freedom and responsibility in your life; first realizing that you are free, and then taking action. And this revolution happens by dissolving your misconception of determinism, the idea that you are in bondage to nature and natural laws. It actually is to defeat the myth of Freud’s unconscious mind, this thing that drives behavior in spite of your conscious will. Overcome this myth and liberate yourself to endless potential.

It additionally is to overrule the paradigm of Plato’s psychology in the Republic. Maybe there is no “many headed beast” in the human soul. As long as you believe it, you will be a slave to it. Realize your freedom by making the beast unreal. Simply deny it reality and it goes away… 

Flowers and Weeds

Nine o’clock.

I’m still not hot to trot on getting vaccinated. The Johnson’s vaccine has a problem with causing blood clots, and that’s what they have at Bi Mart. I haven’t been paying much attention to the news lately; I just delete the emails every morning and get on with my day. Heidi is very unwell, she told me yesterday. I was sad to hear about it, and meanwhile the sun blazed down apathetically. For some reason I thought of “The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane, a powerful description of nature’s indifference to humankind, very realistic and not at all sugary except for the grace of his excellent prose style. So, Heidi said she’d be back Monday, but I’m not holding my breath. It’s only Tuesday but already I’m anticipating Saturday’s band practice. I hope it happens. I will take my old SX bass, which I’ve had for ten years now. Maybe I’ll tweak it again before the weekend; put a different high mass bridge on it for the best tone… I’m considering getting the Penguin edition of Plato’s Symposium for its treatment of Eros, the spiritual love of beauty. There’s a lot of books to read. And the French poets I have are just amazing. Poetry is great for enhancing the experience of music, and the reverse is also true. I could explore my way through Greek tragedy or perhaps just write in my blank book to have a revelation. It’s interesting how thoughts feed feelings and feelings feed thoughts in the course of a day, taking your mood up or down from moment to moment. It is constant maintenance of your mental state to keep positive and happy.

Ten forty. Trying to organize my thoughts without much success. The sunshine brings out motley instincts, as if I were asleep and dreaming assorted taboos. Probably everyone does this, but I find it quite disturbing to have such nightmares. Which is truer, these impulses or their censorship by reason? And the condition of the individual is analogous to the general population and how it is ruled. I’m a liberal person, so I guess that means more weeds in the garden of society, and pushing the envelope of what is acceptable. It’s a very difficult call. And how long before the logical filter breaks down and madness runs free in your mind and in the streets? Was Plato just paranoid of human nature? Shouldn’t we harmonize with nature within and without ourselves? Who’s to say what is best for the garden and what constitutes a weed? 

Utility Again

Wee hours.

Since talking with Polly yesterday morning I’ve felt rather confused. According to her, some Christians believe that we’ve already seen the Antichrist, and a lot of other biblical prophecies are coming true. I don’t know what to do with this information. Maybe the safe thing is to file it away and not totally dispose of it. The leap to metaphysics is very hard for me to accept because it defies logic. A neighbor once opined to me that people with schizophrenia are possessed by the devil, and my reaction was to think how ignorant he was, and how mean and insensitive. If everyone believed his way, we schizophrenic people would still be chained in dungeons as in the Dark Ages. Think now: is that any way to treat a human being? This neighbor was a Catholic and a complete dunce, and I was thankful when his family moved away. I don’t know how to feel about religion, except I’ve seen how it can marginalize certain people, even force them into ghettos. It depends on the extremity of the belief.

I think the common denominator ought to be our humanity. The philosophy that makes the most sense to me is utilitarianism, the greatest happiness principle of John Stuart Mill. We should minimize pain for each other and maximize happiness, and all other issues are on the side. 

Ironies

Eleven thirty. I’m very anti Carl Jung and his idea of the collective unconscious, which is founded on something spiritual, sort of like the Hindu Brahman. I guess I’m getting farther away from Eastern thinking, for better or for worse. Carnap reduces a word like “essence” to absurdity because it has no referent in physical reality. I’d forgotten how much Eastern thinking depends on intuition. Jung and Campbell both were steeped in Indian philosophy, and this is a fact I have to respect. I recall the first time I read a sampling of The Upanishads, how it made me feel. The concept of the One was a beautiful thing. “That One Thing, breathless, breathed by its own nature.” This statement in the Rig Veda is entirely intuitive and introspective, but for this reason should we reject it? A whole culture was based on this style of reasoning, so how can it be ruled out as fallacious by a small group of people?

Noon hour. The weather is lightening, with a breakthrough of sunshine. Usually I feel pretty lousy, but my mood today is better than average thanks to the band. We’re going to have fun… There was a dramatic irony in my last post. A point came across that I didn’t intend, yet it stands there in spite of myself, and without my knowledge. Abruptly a shower appears in the sunlight, followed by the newsflash that Trump was acquitted… Wordsworth writes how nature and the mind of man are somehow fitted to each other as part of a divine design. It’s a thrust I can’t rightly parry as the sunshine grows and intensifies. 

Amateur Inquirer

Ten o’clock. The thinking I do is more logical now, though still scatterbrained and pellmell. Joseph Campbell didn’t come to conclusions at all because his arguments were not logical in the first place. As for metaphysics, this is rooted in the structure of language, and that’s what misguides people. Just because a statement seems to be true by subsisting in language, is it true in reality? This is the problem that people like Carnap sought to solve.

Eleven o’clock. The goal of it all is to reveal the truth, but I’m not a very good philosopher; not systematic enough, and I lack the credentials for it. But in my amateur way I keep trying. Even if I stumbled upon a great epiphany, there would still be the chores to do, though I avoid these as much as possible. Probably I’m better off to just play my bass and leave the intellectual stuff alone, yet I’m hooked on inquiry into life’s mysteries. Whatever I say will say more about me than about the truth. Oscar Wilde wrote that all art is useless, and Sartre said that man is a useless passion. Life may be absurd; perhaps this is the starting point, so Camus was always right, and our job is to create a meaningful existence. Faulkner was there ahead of him, pointing out how we’re lost without stories, the activity of imagination. Thus it’s already a given that life is pointless. It remains for people to make life worth living. A year ago I started rereading The Sound and the Fury; that’s another book I ought to finish, but the plot is quite outrageous and unpleasant. If I can get through the Jason section, the rest should go a bit easier. In my random rambling way I’ll get it done. 

From Nowhere

Midnight hour.

My mind is a blank. I was just dreaming about going online and buying a new set of pickups for my bass guitar and finding that they were back ordered. But in reality, I have no shortage of gear; the deficiencies I observe are simply me. I feel that I need things to inspire me when this lack is actually a psychological condition. Why is it satisfying to spend money on myself? It seems like an addiction, “the habit forming need for more and more.”

Meanwhile the housefly that wandered in before the weekend still hasn’t found his way back out— which reminds me of Wittgenstein’s analogy of the fly in the bottle of philosophy. He needs to be shown the way back out. It occurs to me that one can also break the bottle, like Alexander cutting the rope with the Gordian Knot. You can have a loss of philosophical faith, particularly in logic, and make the jump to intuitionism. Sort of like experiencing a psychotic break, when the mind is flooded with mythological content from nowhere. Strong wishes just take over and reality is lost in a waking dream, a dream where your wishes come true.