This is very like starting a new blog. I am coming back to this changed and changing, with a much clearer sense of my personal, communal, and political commitments. Looking back over these archives, I notice my too-great intellectual proximity to discourse communities marked by their active self-isolation from the vibrant global cultural diversity that characterizes this and almost every moment in recent centuries. I have regularly mistaken these communities’ love of exoticism for genuine cultural interest and modulated myself to be in dialogue with them. Push comes to shove, though, what most of these communities seem to value most is a capacity to interact with other cultures as a free consumer, a relationship that doesn’t make them more than superficially responsible for the shape their interactions with other peoples and their cultures take.
I have been thinking about philosophy a lot these days. The value of speculative philosophy has been at the forefront of that. I’ve talked a little around that topic with mention of a philosophy of error, but that only captures part of the thrust of speculative philosophy. Alongside the concern with error and its capacity to deepen our understanding, there is also a concern with consciousness.That concern with consciousness provides a counterpoint to the concern with error and, moreover, provides philosophy with a foundation and direction that error alone cannot. I want to talk toward and around that point a little.
Philosophy is famously (or infamously) amorphous. Sometimes it means little more than having to do with some folks we call philosophers; other times, it seems to be an opinion about the nature of this or that thing. I can be philosophical by reading Nietzsche, wondering if quarks really exist, talking about the virtues of capitalism or communism, explaining why I think a certain medical procedure is ethical or not, considering whether human nature is altruistic, and talking about what makes me happy or sad. Questions or statements of meaningfulness often find their way to the philosophical banner, whether they are about living a meaningful life or making sense of what a statement or idea means. Philosophy abuts both religion and science, sometimes in competition with them, sometimes cooperating with them, sometimes serving as the middleman negotiating between them. Go very far with this, it starts to seem like everything has to do with philosophy.
Of course, if something has to do with everything, there is a danger that it itself is nothing. After all, if it can be applied to any subject, doesn’t that imply that it, in fact, has no proper content of its own? Like the skeptical neuroscientist who suggests consciousness has no real effect on the world, that it is merely an epiphenomenon of strictly determined biological and chemical processes, might philosophy be just the epiphenomenon of ‘real’ knowledge? Or, perhaps, might we wonder if what we call ‘philosophy’ is nothing more than a too-big-for-its-britches word that refers to just thinking about stuff in a deliberately peculiar fashion?
I ended the last post looking to speculate about the proper relationship between visionary experience and more intellectual work. Looking at Jung in particular, I realize that is likely to look a little presumptive; Jung was no fool and he was surely doing what he thought best.
I don’t mean to imply either. Jung didn’t have the intellectual tools at his disposal to negotiate his experience, so he had to make them himself. I can be critical and think differently in part because I have Jung’s life and work to study. It is Jung that makes a critical assessment possible and I don’t undervalue the intellectual labor that entailed.
The last post gestured toward the complexity that can develop as archetype- and pattern-based approaches share a common content even as they put that content to different use. It lies beyond the scope of this little series to elaborate the full range of this complexity, so I want to focus on the way in which these approached become tangled together in Jung’s discourse. We’ll be revisiting much of the ground already covered in this series, but with a better sense of it.
There is a strong minor chord in contemporary religious thought that emphasizes the unity of the Earth and all its elements in an organic and spiritual system, a naturalistic pantheism or pantheistic naturalism. The increasing scientific evidence of the interconnectedness of seemingly disparate places fuels this, though the theology races well ahead of the science in positing that this system forms an organic unity rather than just a series of overlapping networks. I find this sort of holism problematic and want to think through it a little. This post is intended to clear some space, but little else. What I’m clearing space for…well, more to come on that, though I hope a reader can glimpse some of that through the other posts here.
As I begin to write this installment, I can see the end of this series in sight. The tall tower toward which I have been moving toward looms close, and it seems only a few turns away. Still, there is important ground left to cover, so let me get to that.
I ended the last post with the notion that our present, modern and industrial, society may play a significant part in the alienation of folks like Jung and Dick from their own experiences. This alienation is more intense from what I take to be the alienation inherent to the operation of Introverted Intuition. While the alienation of Introverted Intuition always inhibits the forms it produces, in the modern situation facilitates their neutralization.
I keep chewing over the role of growth in the development of the United States. At the moment, it seems a bit like the royal road into the American (un)consciousness. I’m sure some of that is just the excitement of finding a new approach to this material. Still, there is much that can be worked by exploring these avenues. Without undertaking the journey quite yet, I want to layout a rough outline of the map this approach suggests.