An open letter to Chris Bateman responding to his blog-letter Wherefore Philosophy? Whence Emotions? at Only A Game as part of the Republic of Bloggers. Feel welcome to provide your own input via the Comments!
Thank you for your letter as it was written with such care and attention I could really see your passion for your discipline of Philosophy and your commitment to virtuous discourse. It was heart-warming and welcome.
I do feel that you have interpreted my articulated disinterest in the discipline of Philosophy as some kind of failure on my part. There are many topics in the world that we can readily admit to having little interest in knowing more about it, or in actively engaging with it. My interest in this discussion was to see if I could articulate my disinterest to a spectrum of Philosophy.
Yet, as I think about it I’m not really disinterested in Philosophy. Disinterest is actually the bane of an engaged person. What I did was think deeply about why when I think of Philosophy (the Discipline) it holds little appeal to me. Most people would just accept their apathy and not even engage with it. I chose to delve into this and I could not have a more excellent companion in you to help me with this exploration. So again, my thanks and gratitude for your dedication.
Yes. I agree that there is confusion of the Philosopher with the Prophet and will admit to making this mistake myself. But it is an honest mistake. Experts are asked all of the time to explain the past and predict the future, and so an expert on Philosophy will get called on to predict the future. It comes with the territory, justified or not.
Not Feeling It
It is ignorance (my will to ignore coupled with complacence) and not disinterest towards Modern Philosophy that has led me to conclude that the Discipline says very little about the emotional life of humanity. Your summary about Philosophy and emotional life, the Passion of Philosophers Past is wonderful and appreciated. You have corrected me: Modern Philosophy does speak to emotion but you must admit it is generally not its focus. This gnaws at me and undermines my enthusiasm for it.
Modern Philosophy utilizes a cognitive approach towards all human thought and experience. Its this cognitive focus on all things including emotions that bothers me. Emotions can and will be thought about, but is that enough? Identifying an emotion is not the same thing as understanding it, and understanding it is not the same thing as being in full experience of it. Emotions are essentially its own layer of communication, its own language. Translation of emotions into cognitive language will not capture their true essence or their importance.
Yet Modern Philosophy and Psychology will convince themselves and others that emotions are measurable. They will chart facial expressions as a way to measure emotions. Yet how reliable are these expressions? Emotions can be hidden, faked, repressed, and aggrandized. It is the nebulous and transient nature of feelings/emotions that makes them unreliable objects of measurement and should not make them objects of contempt. My conviction lies with Buddhism’s understanding that feelings (and emotions) are where all things converge and should be central to all understanding.
The UI problem to Modern Philosophy
So while you have been able to show me how Modern Philosophy comprehends emotions, you have also demonstrated how its approach also leaves me dissatisfied. My hangup with Modern Philosophy is that requires a heritage of thinking to truly apprehend it. Philosophy has the same trappings of academia, namely the requirement to study all of that came before in order to arrive at an understanding of where we are now. Academics and most Modern Philosophy is like the hand that points to the hand that points to the hand that points to the moon. It appears so far removed.
For example let’s use this treatise on Agency which makes reference to different past philosophers. I’m a theoretical person but find these constant references to be a kind of Choose Your Own Adventure, leading to choice fatigue. In contrast, other thought systems will help me conceptualize things by using tools such as tables. This psychological treatment of Agency called Locus of Control is an example of how a theory is made into a easy to grasp model.
|Perceived locus of control|
Locus of Control employs a table as a UI to make it easy to understand. There is no need to read previous works to get a layperson’s understanding. Its a shortcut that makes Philosophy’s antiquated UI vulnerable.
Respecting Our Elders While Replacing Them
Philosophy is the eldest thinking system and is deserving of respect. In pre-Modern times Philosophy was imbued in all aspects of life including an understanding about human purpose and afterlife. Today, Philosophy plays the role of being thought pioneers since secularism has demanded that metaphysics be kept in the private domain of religion. Rationalism and secular thinking has led to inflation of secular professions such as scientists, engineers, psychologists, who have replaced Philosophy’s once prominent role in human thought. Philosophy is being replaced by its children:
Perhaps Philosophy is like Latin, the mother language of the Catholic Church and Roman Empire. Its influence cannot be denied but few actually practice it. Just as the Romantic and Germanic languages replaced Latin, so too we see Secularism and its disciplines carve Philosophy into diverse and vibrant niches of study and practice.
Perhaps We Are Saying the Same Thing in Different Languages
Such diversity is being practiced right now via our blog letters. While I have little wish to practice the discipline you do, I value the dedication and insights that you share. I smile in agreement and kinship with most of the things you post, because I appreciate the novel ways you articulate what I may be pondering or have thought but not stated.
We do not share aesthetic interests as it pertains to Modern Philosophy but perhaps we share the same holistic values and fight on the same side against a common enemy (atomic/positivist ideology). Perhaps the nature of our disagreement is that we are located on different fronts.
This blog-letter exercise has left me better informed, but it has not changed my conviction. I now better understand the nature of my ignorance of the Discipline of Philosophy and have come to a new appreciation that there are people like yourself that still practice it. It has been a meaningful discourse for me!
With respect, affection, and camaraderie,