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.
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.
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.
I’ll be leaving for church in about an hour. Aesop gets his breakfast just before I go. Melissa told me that today is the Super Bowl, and they expect to be slammed with business from a lot of drunken fans. But for the moment that I arrived at the store it was quiet and serene, with no sound but that of the gulls circling over the lot across the road. As I write, the sun has barely begun to ascend and clear the treetops… I was very pleased with my bass gear yesterday, a cheap homemade instrument through a lightweight Fender amp. It sounded really cool.
Eleven twenty five. Church was pretty nice. I got to chat with Lisa after the service, and Sheryl drove me home. Now it’s beginning to hit me how tired I am. If I read Goethe this afternoon, hopefully some of the poetry will rub off on me, because otherwise I feel very uninspired. But there’s no ought to about how a person feels or thinks, thank goodness. Actually I’m more in the mood for a Carnap essay. I wish I could comprehend Bertrand Russell a little better; we seem never to be on the same wavelength. I didn’t care for his little book on epistemology. His approach to it I found unintelligible when I was a student, and it turned me off of philosophy for a whole year.
Noon hour. I have mixed feelings about tithing to the church this morning. I don’t believe I’ll see a divine reward for my contribution. Organized religion is a lot of phony hocus-pocus. Also I took communion today: more smoke and mirrors. You really have to be raised on religion to be able to accept its spiritual content. Mostly I’m a realist and a materialist, but I’m open to a good logical proof for the invisible unknown.
It’s raining a constant patter this morning. I was just out in it to go buy Aesop’s food and something for me. Rain is the stimulus to reflection and odd thoughts and abstractions. Philosophy was born in a rainstorm. I remember traveling from class to class up on campus with an umbrella. You couldn’t survive without one here. The university was a big and diverse place where I felt at home— until the illness showed up and some of the professors derided me. I should write a letter to the president of the university about my bad experience with the English department eleven years ago. They’re always asking alumni for money, but I feel disinclined to give them anything after what I went through. I would feel empowered if I did this… My Snapple tea is already gone and Aesop ate an hour ago. The rain has slackened. Yesterday I ended up buying that book of Mallarme. I’m not quite clear on what his poetry is about, but I think it’s an endeavor at transcendence of the mundane through using symbols. In this way he is a neo Platonist similar to Dickinson. Also like Keats in “Ode to a Nightingale.”
Ten twenty. There’s a lot of ambiguity in my mind today that may never be reduced. During the wee hours I thought of Henry James and his use of subtexts in everyday speech. We often don’t know what we’re communicating to each other unconsciously. What is not said can be louder than what is manifestly spoken, if you subscribe to his vision of reality. But I believe that certain truths of psychology are permanent, or maybe I was brainwashed in college. It’s been a long time since I read any Henry James. No one else seems to be interested in Modern fiction anymore. All things being equal, I might as well brush up on my Modern literature.
Today has been rather a test, yet better than yesterday. I skipped the Snapple tea and felt okay with no caffeine. I did only a little reading out of the same book, an essay by Moritz Schlick of the Vienna Circle. The one by Russell was too difficult for me to follow. Very generally, positivism was concerned with realistic things, kind of like science, and denying the existence of anything beyond the physics; basically, anything you can’t see or sense with your five senses. But then I wonder what the motive was for such a denial of the supernatural. I think they wanted to level everyone down to equality, especially after the Nazis took power in Europe. Frankly, most of the positivists were Jewish and maybe had an axe to grind with the Church and anyone who claimed to be superior in some cultural way— again, like the Nazis and the anti Semitic trend that started with Richard Wagner and other Germans like him. It was absurd for them to say they had the best of everything: women, beer, music, mythology, and the Aryan race of people. I think this was the situation they tried to correct in eliminating statements that were unverifiable. I heard this opinion in a lecture by my old Jewish philosophy professor who once lived in Germany. He escaped from it just before the concentration camps were instituted. This story always impressed me as amazing. Dr Zweig was a good guy. Anyway, the next essay is by Rudolf Carnap and ought to be accessible to me.
Eleven thirty. Now I perceive that my interest in logical positivism is political and historical and relevant to our situation today. The fascism of the departing administration and the attempted coup on democracy, imo, was in many ways like the Nazis. Perhaps the supernaturalism of the extreme right has given it an unfair advantage somehow, in a way I don’t understand, just as no one understands what made Nazism a phenomenon during WW2. But the logical positivists knew what they were doing by leveling everybody to the common denominator and abolishing metaphysics and other outrageous claims to superiority by the Nazis. Hopefully we’ll be wise enough to learn from the precedent of these philosophers and crush infamy before it crushes us.
Nine twenty five.
I left the house for the store at eight thirty, just missing the rain. Before that I called Polly to have a chat. I bought Aesop some original Milk Bones. He was pretty excited to see the red box in my hand when I came in the door… My mind is kind of a blank right now. Last night I urged my pen pal to treat herself to a new book she really wants. She has her eye on a book of bird writing from an online seller. I hope she springs for it today. She deserves a reward just for being herself. I think more people need to spoil themselves a little. We tend to believe we have to rationalize being kind to ourselves, and we feel guilty when we splurge. It depends on our upbringing… I was rather zoned out last night, didn’t realize what I was thinking or saying, but it turned out good. My heart expanded and I was full of benevolence for my friends. To start with, I felt anxious about the well-being of Polly and Roxanne because I hadn’t heard from them in a while. So I called Roxanne to see if she was okay and we talked for a half hour.
Ten twenty five. Probably I was in a reverie yesterday afternoon, hypnotized by the book I’d been pondering. It contains some mathematical logic that’s alien to me, plus some unfamiliar terms and usage. But overall the concern is with truth and language. I keep running into the condition of pessimism regarding what people can know, a hurdle everyone jumps every day anyway without a thought. And being introduced to philosophy is the real trouble, because then you have to find your way out of its problems. Wittgenstein: “Philosophy is the disease for which (philosophy) is the cure.” Most of us get along fine without philosophical complications. I guess I’m not like most people… Honestly, this stuff I had put aside and forgotten about for many years. My sense of smell remembers the reek of burning mint fields when I was 21. After taking Aristotle in the winter I had a loss of philosophical faith. I just turned to intuition and irrationalism like the existentialists. Soon my mind melted down completely. Is it possible to live without logic? Seems you can exist on Romantic feeling and take things on faith…
Three o’clock. Some snowflakes were mixed with the rain a moment ago, and as quickly vanished. I’ve been trying to read very difficult philosophy, the editor’s introduction to Logical Positivism. I’m so accustomed to rhetoric, generalizations, and poetry that the specificity of analytic philosophy is like doing math or something. Is there much difference between philology and linguistics, and which is trustworthy? And what is the use of philosophy if it doesn’t help humanity along? Wading through the introduction, I realized that I’ve been very naive in an epistemological way, a way that regards the medium of language. One can never really refer to concrete objects as they are, but instead you are stuck with verbal statements, and that’s as close as you can get to material truth. Naive realism is sort of a leap from subjective experience to saying the external world is objectively “there.” I make this leap in logic all the time, disregarding the problem of language. I think most people do. Maybe this is why philosophy has become disposable in our eyes: the way it splits hairs is impractical.
And yet, I remember thoughts and feelings from my early childhood, just watching the beads of rain trickle down the car window by osmosis, like observing the succession of my ideas. Our lives start out with endless questions that eventually get silenced by having to chase the dollar. Philosophy may seem useless, but it is our original state to wonder…
It’s almost time to feed Aesop. He doesn’t care that Joe Biden is being sworn in this morning. And maybe it isn’t such a big deal after all. I got another scam call regarding the warranty on my car, when I don’t own one. In the mail last night I received the Sandburg book. I’m very pleased with it. I read twelve pages early this morning… Now I have to go to the store. Hopefully they’ll have some of those sandwiches.
Ten o five. I came upon my neighbor Willie and his small dog Rosie on the return trip from the store. He saw me coming down Fremont and stopped and waited up for me. Willie has long white hair and a goatee. He’s always pleasant to talk with. His street is the one parallel to mine to the east. Once when I was out walking in the summertime I took his picture with my Kodak PixPro. It was my new toy and I shot everything for a while. Right now it’s quiet and peaceful in the neighborhood. Things seem to be settling down and people can breathe again. Perhaps now we can move on with the new year. First thing this morning I found another good book of analytic philosophy in my stuff. It’s about time for unfounded metaphysics to be put in its place, at least for me. Church is all right with me if it’s just about the people, but I’m not into the supernatural. I think my dog believes in ghosts and things he can’t explain, but human beings ought to know better. I just remembered a passage from Blake. Newton blows the trumpet of doom and consequently the angels in heaven crash down to earth. This is to say that science kills the religious imagination. Possibly I should think on this a little more. It’s hard to know what’s right.
One ten. The problem with Jungian psychology is that there’s no evidence for any of it, nothing objective and measurable. It’s more like faith: something you feel to be true rather than a truth you can demonstrate. Those ideas just hang there in the ether, incapable of being proven valid or invalid. Logical analysis cannot verify such claims. So what does this do to poetry? Do we rule out the importance of poetry in our lives?… I don’t feel very strong right now. Maybe I’ll pick up a book. Put everything aside and read for a while.
Three o’clock. So I started reading the introduction to the compilation called Logical Positivism by A.J. Ayer: very well done. Some of it was a bit over my head because it involved mathematics, but I could get the basic idea, and with repetition I should be able to master it. I was prompted to read this by my exasperation with metaphysical claims that have no factual basis, that refer to nothing in the world except for language itself. I guess the aim of positivism was to make philosophy closer to a science, a discipline that was absolutely true, though the word “absolutely” isn’t quite right. It was to be a fool proof method of determining truth. I found this reading very enjoyable, while outside it’s a beautiful sunny afternoon. I still haven’t played bass guitar today. Maybe I won’t until tomorrow. I saw Diana gabbing with a neighbor across the street, most likely about current events and politics. She refused to answer her door when I brought over some chocolate at Christmas time, so it’s hard not to take it personally. I suppose just chalk it up to stupidity and forget it. I dislike most of my immediate neighbors, particularly the longest standing ones with ultra conservative attitudes. Their hearts are made of stone and they are very stingy with their money, time, and hospitality. Basically they suck. Now I think I’ll do my bass practice, and to hell with the neighbors.