18/03/2012

big questions avoided by big questioners


Four years banging your head against philosophers does not necessarily result in answers. You leave with a lifetime's supply of questions, though (as many as you can carry).


But maybe only certain kinds of question. Some of the best and most probing issues were intentionally not addressed by my lecturers. When they did come up, they were dismissed as hand-wavy (i.e. vague, naive, poetic, unrigorous, excessive, off-topic).


What this really means is that they require rare breadth and synthetic intelligence to handle - a candle, not a laser - and that even then, the answers to them are open-ended, indexical and speculative. This is why something like Continental philosophy - in spite of all its obscurantism, cultishness and breathlessness - is necessary: it isn't afraid of reaching a little way past 'the' world at the expense of certainty.


  1. what is our fundamental relation to the world?

  2. what is value?

  3. how much of all this was inevitable? (is anything itself necessarily?

  4. And, does that last question matter? (Can history bring meaning to life?)

  5. (3b): what can we do? (unity of theory and practice)

  6. what is the relation between knowledge and power?

  7. what comes before the question?

  8. what, exactly, is impossible? What impossible things are there?

  9. what should we acknowledge as Higher than ourselves?


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I'll have a go at that last one. Three things are above me: causality; absurdity; and the lives of Others.


Do those first two seem to contradict each other? (By saying 'causality' like that, am I not positing an unabsurd universal order?) No: a billiard table can be internally consistent and perfectly closed, but will still be Absurd if the whole deal is floating in space.



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