Thursday, February 6, 2014

Imagination, logic, & life

Here is an email I wrote for a group several years ago, just retrieved:

10 February 2005

Imagination & logic, the shape of life & the shape of thought

While scooting about town yesterday, I ran several complete narratives through my head. Typing, however, is much slower, and I've been burning all my candles at all ends, so I'll have to content myself with summarizing what I'm not going to say.

(1) A narrative tentatively titled "Street Life Monadology" is an autobiographical review of the summer and fall of 1979, illustrating the juxtaposition of philosophical reflection and everyday life, and sometimes the unplanned coincidences between the two.  However, except for the entertainment value, I see no advantage in posting it here, because there are no generalizable conclusions to be drawn from it. My aim would have been to show the close relation between philosophizing and everyday life and my own driving motivations of the time, but in fact this is not the story that will do it, and the appropriate stories to be told would require even greater effort to reconstruct.

(2) I wanted to write up my perceptions of the effects of the philosophical culture of analytical philosophy on people I've known, to illustrate its debilitating effect on imagination and creativity. Which is not to say that I disavow the specific products that issue from this work—as much of it is stuff that interested me in the past—but I'm interested in what could be called philosophical culture, or the milieu that molds minds in a particular way, which is where I see the problem. This is by no means to validate its dishonest and hypocritical competitor, irrationalism. In any event, each is indispensable to the other.

(3) One problem with the association of life and philosophy is the unavoidability of being held hostage to a limited set of available ideas which at some point in time are attractive because they resonate so well with what is going on in the times, and individually. Only with time, more knowledge, and good fortune, is it possible to see that the shapes of both life and thought at an earlier stage of development were contoured in different ways than one suspected at the time. This is one reason to be wary.

(4) While I thought I saw the handwriting on the wall in the late '70s, as I always think I do, I could not see the shape of thought from a sufficiently wide angle. I only met Aant Elzinga, who does historical science studies in Sweden, in the 1980s, in another stage of my existence, and he gave me a few of his papers. But I didn't absorb the lessons even then. I wish I had read the following paper back in 1978 when he wrote it, and when I had no clue about the perspective contained therein, but he only sent it to me two years ago:

The Man of Science in a World of Crisis: A Plea for a Two-Pronged Attack on Positivism and Irrationalism.


"The hidden harmony is better than the visible." — Heraclitus

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