The Question Then…

What is philosophy? In spite of the fact that I can be quite a terrible student, I always feel a certain love for philosophy. I’ve learned, sometimes heartbreakingly, what others expect it to be. Now, I do not claim to know anything about you, although I do not rule out us having some things in common. I get the idea, like me, that you find yourself asking time and again what the value of philosophy is? So, I thought I share a good book that gets me turned on. (click the pic to read the book).

excerpts from Introduction: The Question Then…

…philosophy is the art of forming, inventing, and fabricating concepts…The philosopher is an expert in concepts and in the lack of them. He knows which are not viable, which are arbitrary or inconsistent, which ones do not hold up for an instant. On the other hand, he also knows which are well formed and attest to a creation, however disturbing or dangerous it may be.

More rigorously, philosophy is the discipline that involves creating concepts… Concepts are not waiting for us ready-made, like heavenly bodies. There is no heaven for concepts. They must be invented, fabricated or rather created and would be nothing without their creator’s signature. Nietzsche laid down the task of philosophy when he wrote, ‘[Philosophers] must no longer accept concepts as a gift, nor merely purify and polish them, but first make and create them, present them and make them convincing. Hitherto one has generally trusted one’s concepts as if they were a dowry from some sort of wonderland’

Plato said Ideas must be contemplated, but first of all he had to create the concept of Idea. What would the value of a philosopher of whom one could say, ‘He has created no concepts; he has not created his own concepts’?

We can at least see what philosophy is not: it is not contemplation, reflection, or communication. This is the case even though it may sometimes believe it is one or other of these, as a result of the capacity of every discipline to produce its own illusions and hide behind its own peculiar smokescreen… It is not contemplation, for contemplation are things themselves as seen in the creation of their specific concepts. It is not reflection, because no one needs philosophy to reflect on anything… Mathematicians, as mathematicians, have never waited for philosophers before reflecting on mathematics, nor artist before reflecting on painting or music… Nor does philosophy find a final refuge in communication, which only works under the sway of opinions in order to create “consensus” and not concepts… Philosophy does not contemplate, reflect, or communicate, although it must create concepts for these actions or passions… To create concepts is, at the very least, to make something. This alters the question of philosophy’s use or usefulness, or even its harmfulness (to whom is it harmful?).

Feel free to comment, critique, or complain.


10 thoughts on “The Question Then…

  1. most of the time we just wander about in this world, but if we’re lucky enough to having a wondering spirit (nothing extra-mundane by this), then we might stumble upon something wonderful. and, if we love it long enough, maybe we can say something sensible about it to share among our fellow wander-ers/wonder-ers…but, if we don’t have anything to say, still the wonderful wondering will always be ours….

  2. I like that, that sounds nice, if you have a wondering spirit you already have stumbled upon something wonderful.

    However Deleuze and Guattari  are very clear that we can at least see what philosophy is not: it is not contemplation, reflection, or communication. Philosophy is the discipline involved in creating concepts. What are your thoughts on what Deleuze and Guattari say philosophy is or is not?

    1. philosophy in what sense? philosophy as a career? I guess a book with concept(s) would be a prudent goal to nurture. philosophy as an attitude toward living? I guess that would be ideal, but things aren’t clean cut. i tend to be weary of placing limits so as to make things less messy. why should philosophizing “look” a certain way, and why should it necessarily yield concepts? if we don’t have any to show for ourselves, are we then dejected children? on the other hand, what we’ve stumble on isn’t just free for the taking…

      1. I sympathize with your weariness of someone telling you what philosophy is: it’s a good intuition to listen to. 

        philosophy in what sense? 
        Philosophy, not in the sense of a career. That can be  a paycheck for idle chatter. Philosophy, not in the sense of an attitude toward living. That can be nothing more than repeating a slogan. 

        To be perfectly clear, these are not my words, I’m quoting strait out the the introduction (click the pic to see the free google book).  “To know oneself, to learn to think, to act as if nothing were self-evident – wondering, ‘wondering that there is being’ – these, and many other determinations of philosophy create interesting attitudes, however tiresome they may be in the long run, but even from a pedagogical point of view they do not constitute a well-defined occupation or precise activity. On the other hand, the following definition of philosophy can be taken as being decisive: knowledge through pure concepts. But there is no reason to oppose knowledge through concepts and the construction of concepts within possible experience on the one hand and through intuition on the other.” (p7)

        1. my questioning back and forth is a cautionary reaction to giving the activity of creating concepts priority. from the get go, there is already a way of “seeing” (the question of whether this is some sort of pre-conceptual schema is yet another matter we don’t have a final say). nonetheless, it seems to me a “philosophical attitude” allows the wonder-er to “see” differently and make obvious (tangible) what isn’t apparent. and so those “dated concepts” we’ve inherited has given us a subject matter we call philosophy – distinguishing itself from math, art, music, and so on. but, its practitioners aren’t the sole possessor of a “philosophical attitude.” what am i saying? i guess i want philosophy to be a much bigger ground then what it appears to be, to me.

          1. Really digging your comments.
            “…from the get go, there is already a way of ‘seeing’”.
            You are right to press me here, so far I have been presenting this book as a trusted friend. Philosophers must distrust most the concepts they did not create themselves and if Deleuze and Guattari take their task seriously then they must also present them and make them convincing. For that I can’t recommend the book enough!
            If I may: “Let us proceed in a summary fashion: we will consider a field of experience taken as a real world no longer in relation to a self but to a simple ‘there is.’… The plane of immanence is not a concept that is or can be thought but rather the image of thought, the image of thought gives itself of what it means to think, to make use of thought, to find one’s bearings in thought…If philosophy begins with the creation of concepts, then the plane of immanence must be regarded as prephilosophical.”

            To your concerns of wanting philosophy to be a much bigger ground then what it appears to be, Deleuze and Guattari say this nicely, “the nonphilosophical is perhaps closer to the heart of philosophy than philosophy itself, and this means that philosophy cannot be content to be understood only philosophically or conceptually, but is addressed essentially to non-philosophers as well.”

  3. It’s late and my concentration lacks the power to stave off the encroachment of continuity’s chaos – or chaos’s continuity, I can’t remember which – such that the concepts I’m immersed in are conflating, and I offer this conflationary view of the universe for Angel’s amusement. Concepts makeup the masks of the gods that perform the dramas that serve as the living myths that structure our lives – myth/dramas that perpetually play themselves out yet are at every moment rewritten anew by philosophers who, like monks perpetually ascending or descending an Escher stair, concern themselves with the topography of an ever-changing ocean of prephilosophical problems and like to mark out their territory by identifing the outlines of the crests of neighboring waves while they bob up and down and struggle to keep themselves from drowning – each crest a thought concept expressing the look on the face of a god playing his part in the myth that’s trying to swallow them up. So, Angel, what’s the difference between trying to stay afloat as we’re thrown around on the ocean of immanence and creating concepts? And is there a drain we can pull? Or perhaps you can throw me a line?

    1. I am amused… and I’m still working through it myself, but I recommend you read it.

      So I’m not sure if I can tell you what is the ‘difference between trying to stay afloat as we’re thrown around on the ocean of immanence and creating concepts’? Perhaps one line I can throw you is, “Every creation is singular, and the concept as a specifically philosophical creation is always a singularity… First, concepts are and remain signed: Aristotle’s substance, Descartes’s cogito, Leibniz’s monad, Kant’s condition, Schelling’s power, Bergson’s duration… concepts are dated, signed, and baptized, they have their own way of not dying while remaining subject to constraints of renewal, replacement, and mutation that give philosophy a history as well as a turbulent geography…” (p7-8)

      Perhaps one difference we can make is that concepts are rare events while your ‘throw-ness’ sounds to be our ever-present existential human condition enveloped in the waters of a viscous hermeneutic circle.

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