I spent an hour and a half reading from my book of Sextus Empiricus, and it really fills some gaps for me about Western philosophy, often just by giving definitions. So now I know what is meant by words like posit, positive, and positivism, also the original sense of dogmatism, and other things. All of them pertain to knowledge, especially the theory of knowledge. I think that to “posit” is to affirm a thing as true or false, whereas the sceptic suspends judgment either way. It’s an interesting approach to looking at reality, distrusting sense perception and also human reason and saying nothing can be known for sure; also taking into account how everyone sees things differently. This is what we call appearance or opinion. The mistake I made for a long time was assuming that my perceptions were absolutes, and everyone saw things the same. But is that a reason to despair of the availability of objective truth? According to the sceptic, the suspense of judgment leads to a feeling of calm and quietude. Again, it’s kind of weird. I’m not sure how I got directed into this philosophy but I’m learning new words and concepts that round out my education a bit.
Tag: Theory of knowledge
Quarter of eight.
This morning is overcast and kind of ugly, though things are going rather well so far today. My conscience prods me regarding church; I suppose I’d better show up on Sunday and try to be a good Lutheran. I awoke in the middle of the night with a vision of the album cover to Jaco’s Word of Mouth. It shows the progress of the sun across the sky in broken up frames to suggest the relativity of perception. I hadn’t thought about relativism in a long time, but I encounter epistemic problems frequently with my family. Getting to the bottom of a story is nearly impossible when you have nothing to go by except reports and hearsay. I get so I despair of ever learning the truth. Still, I have faith that the truth exists if we can eliminate all the lies and coloring of the facts that people add to reality. Of course I could be wrong, and there is no truth outside of human creativity. It just seems kind of wishy washy to have that belief. And my intuition is usually pretty on the money. I’m certainly very tired of family dynamics. I feel upset after every conversation with my sister…
There’s no denying that my dog is hungry for his breakfast right now. It is an indisputable fact, and I can witness it firsthand.
The old psychiatrist used to say, if you’re looking for it, you’ll find it. I often believe that politics and sociology are responsible for my personal thoughts, but this is impossible to show, and it may be a delusion of thought insertion. Suffice it that I’ve been unwell for the past month. I can blame anybody I want but it doesn’t achieve anything. I was able to concert my brain enough to play my bass this afternoon, which sounded great. I really like FretWire kits, Omega bridges, and Rotosound stainless steel strings. You don’t have to spend a fortune on your gear to sound like a pro.
Quarter of midnight.
My mind is a blank, my mind’s eye void. Philosophy is very involved with language, and is it really conceivable to see reality beyond the scope of our words? I’m a naive optimist about that. Reality for a person with aphasia does not simply dissolve to nothing. It still remains but without the names. The church pastor was probably a pessimist on the same issue: knowledge depends on speech, on language and words; in the beginning was the word, etc etc. But what happens if you do slip under the net of language? Is there still a language of feeling, like music? And what do objects look like with no names? This would be my last argument with Pastor Dan, living in his little sphere of words upon words and sermon after sermon: words words words in an endless flow like a stream which you follow to the sea— or to a desert drought where reality ends. But that’s just it: does reality vanish where there are no words? For the answer to this I should revisit Shelley’s poetry.
Eleven thirty 🕦. It’s been a good couple of days for me, very eye opening and illuminating. It feels so strange when the face of nature changes in accordance with the political scene, kind of like the sympathy of nature in a Shakespeare play, for instance Julius Caesar or King Lear. Human eyes project new meaning onto the world, and the result of this interplay of mind and matter is an effect we know as reality; so that perception is what Wordsworth described to us in The Prelude about two centuries ago. It’s funny, though; I feel rather lazy, as if I could go on sabbatical from my writing for a while and still feel like a worthwhile person. Today’s social climate seems to me like that of the 1990’s. It’s tempting not to take individual responsibility and rather say that every person is a passive mirror of the day— when the truth may be that human beings collectively create the spirit of the age from our own souls. The mysterious thing is whence these ideas of ours spring; so I suppose that Jungian theory has some applicability… but even Jung got the idea from his Romantic predecessors… Thus I look out on a June day in Oregon, making out the shapes and colors of the cloudy sky from the backseat of a taxi or through my bedroom window. The lemon lime filters into the kitchen and family room, yet the process is an operation of my own mind, which in turn participates in a greater reservoir of the human nous. So, it’s rather problematic whether what I see is external nature or a projection of my mind. But perception is likely not entirely passive as in Aristotle’s model of naive realism. Then again, realism can be a comfort, like the ordinary loveseat I’m sitting on. Does it make sense to call this a projection of my mind? And here I arrive at an impasse in my meditation, because I always have liked the simplicity of the immanent, the mundane and ordinary stuff that surrounds us. Are we such stuff that dreams are made on, or is it preferable to keep things simple?
Beholder and the Beheld
Melissa will be opening the store just now. I didn’t sleep much last night, so Sunday is my day of rest. I can take a nap if I want to. It’s very nice how things are mostly settling down and running smoothly. Even the weather sympathizes with human and social affairs. Or does it?
Eight twenty five. Now I’ve had my morning Snapple tea, but still am tired and dodgy from insomnia. And it occurred to me to think, How can the world be peachy if I have insomnia? Isn’t that a sign that I’m not very happy? Or maybe I’m just excited and full of nervous energy… When the band was learning “Peter Gunn” yesterday I noticed that the pickup in my bass guitar really rocked. It’s a Di Marzio Split P that I had installed nine years ago. It uses ceramic magnets and iron blades to create a signal to the amplifier. The tone quality reminds me of a Rickenbacker bass, so milky and rich sounding when it’s done right. Like the bass sound on Rush’s “Digital Man.” I wish I knew more about designing bass electronics, but as it is, I know what I like.
Noon hour. I think I’m really excited about my new bass, arriving Wednesday. It sounds divine in the demos I heard on YouTube. I’ll be like a teen again when FedEx brings it to my door. Passion is an interesting thing, or rather being in love. The responsibility resides wholly with the lover while the object simply exists oblivious of his adoration. This is like Petrarch and Laura in his sonnet series, where he burns with infatuation and idealized love and she hardly recognizes his existence. He never seems to notice that his feelings are entirely his, and not the sympathy of the world around him. In a similar way, I fell in love with this G&L bass, and felt like I had to have it. But the passion that consumed me was totally internal, a property of me alone. It was I who surfed the Internet looking for the perfect instrument. And the obsession that followed was all within myself.
Quest for Method
Three o’clock. The sun has come out, very beautifully. I love February for times like this. The colors are so mellow and deep, like a cloying fruit or sherbet, or like a dense, slightly dissonant chord struck on a chorused guitar. I made some cool music for my mom before she passed away. The other night I dreamed about a favorite rockstar, the bassist John Wetton. His work in the mid seventies was really stunning. I like him the best with King Crimson. I’ve dreamed more than once about meeting those guys and jamming with them— or just listening and talking…
This day reminds me of February a year ago, when I was reading the tales of Edgar Allan Poe. I found it fascinating that he advocated the imagination for a method of ascertaining the truth of things, in an a priori way. He also proposed ratiocination, another a priori approach to knowledge. Was this a Romantic preoccupation, because it was shared by Emerson and Whitman. Can imagination really reveal important truths of the world? And if so, then where can I see the proof of it? Poe was born in 1809 and died 1849, a Capricorn. The intuitionism of the Romantics runs against empiricism, or sensory observation of the world. They believed the heart can detect information deeper than objects of sense, arriving at universal spiritual knowledge— like Faust in the Goethe play. In turn, the Romantic tradition had a big influence on Carl Jung in the following century, so naturally he adopted the same introspective methods. But I keep wondering: does it work?
Beads of Rain
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…
Another pitch dark predawn morning. I had a dream about going to hell, probably inspired by The Space Merchants. It didn’t shake me up much. I woke up and calmly contemplated it. This short novel by Pohl and Kornbluth is the closest thing I’ve experienced to a movie in a long time. It feeds my dreams, so I guess that’s a good thing. Often when I sleep, my mind only thinks in black and white logic. There isn’t much imagery or anything between the lines. Not even a story. I could be overdosing on pure thought, on words; logos. Again the food needs seasoning and the robot wants an imagination… I have physical therapy today at five in the evening. This time I will start out a little later. Obviously I was wrong regarding Santa Clara. People and places change, of course, and it’s difficult to make generalizations about them. I was taught in school to abstract generals from particulars in order to be able to think about life. Now I know that some people don’t do that. Interpretation may be a dying art. And philosophy is definitely on the chopping block. It makes me wonder how people nowadays really do use their heads.
Six o’clock. No daylight for another hour and a half. Perhaps I’ll read a book for a while until the sun comes up. I think it’ll be a good day. Take note of life’s surprises along the way, let them teach us new perspectives. Usually it is fruitless to assume or even try to predict about people and things. We feel safer when we can forecast the future with accuracy. We guard against surprise, but this emotion and joy are often linked. And this is the fabric of learning.
Quarter of three. Emotional experience can be a great thing, but using emotions as a guide leads me back to paranoia. And paranoid delusions are not fun. So that schizophrenia is exaggerated emotional reasoning, and everything that cognitive therapy is not…. My bass practice went better today. I played harder this time. More like rock and roll. I just remembered what a great player I was in 2002 with Blueface. I was a drunken animal, but a serious musician. Today, I’ve been trained out of psychosis and drunkenness, so I experience music differently. I’m not even emotional anymore. I’m more or less “normal.” Certainly not the superman I used to think I was.
Quarter of five. It’s been sunny and warm all day today. It will stay light out for another four hours. I like this much better than the gloom of December and January.
Six o’clock. Now I just wonder how emotionalism as a mode of thinking gets started. It could be our natural state, but we’ll never know because from the crib we’re always surrounded by people. Jungian psychology assumes that being in accord with instincts is healthy for human beings. But my personal experience has suggested just the opposite: it fans the flames of psychosis. The only therapy that helps me is CBT, whether we call it inspired by the Enlightenment or science or whatever notwithstanding. It works.
Eleven o’clock. Postscript. How do we know what is instinctive for humanity? Perhaps emotionalism is less natural than reason and sense information?
More Concerning Method
One twenty five. But, because the theory of knowledge intrigues me, particularly the use of imagination, I think I’ll read more Edgar Poe, try to finish out the volume I have. I recall that I used to employ intuition as a tool… but did it work? This part I don’t remember. I only saw it fail for my coworker Alice a long time ago. The incident impressed me because she was scolding a participant and I intervened. Her insight was dead wrong in the case of Ken accepting empty bottles from me. She believed he was being a nuisance but I was in the habit of giving him bottles for the redemption value. So, how accurate is intuition really? And where do hunches come from? Is it a spiritual thing? Poe deals with a method he calls ratiocination, and demonstrates it by the character of Inspector Dupin in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” …Earlier today I slipped back to intuitive thinking and decided that Sheryl must have hated me for some reason, and led my sessions astray. The only evidence I have is her body language a few times. I was also intuitive when I declared that Polly wants possession of my house. Again, scanty evidence. She let drop a concern about who inherits my house after I’m gone. My paranoid radar took this and amplified it into something big. But I could be wrong. Also note how intuitionism brings with it the assumption of good and evil motives. Black and white thinking. Very strange the way that works. As if this mode of thought took up a certain territory of the human mind. Apply cognitive therapy and all that goes away. Yet it’s such a great thing to be able to feel your feelings and emotions… UPS just brought my bass strings and I hadn’t expected them for another hour and a half. Assuming anything doesn’t work!