The Question of Philosophy

“Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it.” —Epictetus

It’s always amazing how each generation plows the previous generation into the ground. In our time we undermine the postmodern world of thought along with modernity, throwing out the baby with the wash instead of seeking in what these thinkers were saying and doing the kernel of something unique, some saving insight into life, world, and the ‘human condition’. Instead, even the whole notion of the human condition has come under scrutiny as erroneous and to be thrown out along with all the existential insights that these previous thinkers brought forward.

What is all our new materialism, dialectical materialism, posthumanism, agential realism, object-oriented realism, speculative materialism, and all the other variations but the need for scholars to supposedly come up with something new when for the most part it’s the old thought reiterated under new terms and concepts as if it were new. So far, I haven’t been that impressed by the new worlds of contemporary thought that I began studying over a decade ago. I find myself returning to previous generations whose outmoded forms of thought still seem prevalent and speak to us about our current global and local predicaments and problems.

One of my philosophy professors used to preach that most philosophers seem to complexify problems when they should be simplifying them. The gist was that we spend more time recodifying past thought into new terms as if that is saying something new when it is just a game of hide and seek. Most of the time when I read an author whose writing is overly wrought with complex terms and abstractions, I just throw it away. It’s not worth my time to decipher a work that can’t speak to people. Bernard Stiegler was such a thinker: useless to the common reader. His work needed specialized dictionaries and conceptual grafting before it could be read or understood. I know there is a difference between popular thought and philosophical thought but even now one can read the ancients and realize these were men speaking to others in the language of their common lingo. Even if the thought was complex, it was brought down to a level of conversation among others in a dialectical give and take that brought the listener to some insight. Most philosophy now seems to lead in circles going nowhere. Why? Sometimes I think of Ambrose Bierce who vanished among the southern deserts without a trace: “Philosophy – A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.” —Ambrose Bierce

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