"The seeing-eye, the beating wing, the bird that laughs at everything.
Misunderstood by everyone, who can not see all things as one".

Sunday, January 17, 2010

I Think, Therefore I Am Not.

If one find one needs a shed, or a house, or even a lean-to, where does one start to build it?
At the foundation.
Yet the foundation, almost without exception, is the one part that receives the least amount of attention. It is the part one has to go through: the process of building before one starts the actual building. As if it somehow is not part of the building.
It is so often poorly thought out, poorly executed, and afterwards, completely forgotten about.

Every human construct requires a foundation.

Descartes observed: "I think, therefore I am".
For all anyone knows, he may actually have known what he was talking about.
What seems clear, in retrospect, is that almost nobody else did.
And yet this concept became one of the foundations of western philosophy.

Occidentals display, almost without exception, an ego.
Orientals display, almost without exception, a lack of ego.
Why is this?

Oriental philosophy honours the Great Mother. The Tao. The Void.
All beings spring from it. All are part of it.

Occidental philosophy honours the mind. Thinking sets us apart and above everything else that exists.

Orientals are part-of.
Occidentals are apart-from.

I challenge Descartes.
Not the man himself, or whatever it was he intended by:
"I think, therefore I am".
But how those words were interpreted / misinterpreted.

It may well be more useful, even true, to say:
I am, therefore I think.
Or:
I contemplate, therefore I am.
Or even:
I think, therefore I am not.

I am, is a statement of fact. To say it results from thinking, is not.
In fact, the act of thinking, causes one to cease being.
The thinking mind is observing and interpreting.
It is no longer simply being.

Anything that can be built: a house, a value-system, or a philosophy, requires a foundation.
A civilization can be built, and it may last a long time, even if built upon sand.
It would certainly last a great deal longer, if it were built upon rock.

It is never too late, until it is too late, to jack up the whole construct, and securely underpin it with a re-engineered, re-thought-out foundation.
If this is not done, finally the whole thing will succumb to its own mass, and tumble, end over end, into oblivion.

7 comments:

  1. "Orientals are part-of.
    Occidentals are apart-from."

    Arguably Heraclitus was "part-of", as was Nietzsche. Hence the attraction of Heidegger's interpretation of the history of philosophy, which sets off everything between those two as an error.

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  2. As Jacques Derrida so suavely referred to:
    Could you enlarge?
    Not being a whatever-it-is-that-I-would-need-to-be, I don't quite understand your comment.

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  3. If I'm not mistaken, the flaw you see in Occidental thinking is an over-reliance on subject-object dualism. This, together with the here-beyond dualism (this is the phenomenal world, the "real" world is somewhere else), was identified by Heidegger as an error that plagues Western thought from Plato and Aristotle on to the announcement of nihilism by Nietzsche. So the "bookends", if you will, of this error, are Heraclitus and Nietzsche, both of whom are held in great esteem by Heidegger, and I think that in the writings of those two thinkers we see a much closer alignment with some general tendencies of Oriental (Buddhist, Taoist) thought, e.g. overcoming the subject-object dualism and the phenomenal-noumenal dualism.

    I can't say much about the writings of Heidegger himself, since they were well-nigh impenetrable.

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  4. I might suggest reading Thus Spoke Zarathustra and the Fragments of Heraclitus someday, if you've not already. (Heraclitus' work did not survive intact, so they simply collected the fragments that were quoted in various other places and put them together in a volume.)

    But again, I wouldn't suggest Heidegger. That man is preposterously unreadable.

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  5. Crows can be quite clever, but not that clever.
    Thank you Cloudberry for translating into almost-crow-talk.
    Nice to know my views coincide with some of the greatest philosophers of all time. Seems I didn't need to read any of them, after all :)

    "I'm just a soul whose intentions are good,
    Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood".

    Bennie Benjamin / The Animals.

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  6. If Philosophy encompasses a form of eternal truth, my assumption is that it should be discoverable by anybody capable without needing to learn from other philosophers. Different philosophers/mystics who never crossed paths should agree.

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  7. I would say you are right.
    That doesn't mean you are :)
    I make a point of not reading anybody else's philosophy, in case it sabotages my own.
    Agreement is not very important.
    Clarity is.

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