I read a rather strange blog post from an author over at “an und für sich.” The professor complained that his undergrad students were satisfied, when viewing an artwork, or discussing a philosophical position, that it just comes down to a matter of opinion, how one was raised, etc. A consensus by way of commentary was reached that the reason for these statements was the fault of the students: there was an unwillingness to engage in conflict. Well, I mean, when I’m in a class setting, often I don’t really care to argue with people. There is nothing, really, to lose. If I am the curator of a gallery, then, absolutely I will have to defend why I choose to run my gallery according to certain principles and why I have these principles in the first place. Why? Because I have something to lose. I could lose my gallery, my job, my house, etc. So, to complain about students not having the need to be right in a discipline that is often very new to them is not a fair claim. Why should I have so much pride in the work that I have done as a philosopher when I have done no work as a philosopher?
So. How free is the philosophical investigation of the philosopher, especially as it pertains to a career choice. If I have built my career around a philosophy that has done me mostly well, why should I change course, which would thus negate practically all of my previous work? How many philosophers can you name that have changed their direction completely midway through their career? A change that could not be called political disillusionment. For we all know that political events inspire philosophers to change direction. Whence comes the giving up of one’s ideas that have been worked so hard for? Maybe at the onset there was a lot of turmoil before the choice was made to study Kantian metaphysics. Maybe the choice was clear. It doesn’t really matter. Because once your (career!) choice has been made, you cannot go back. You will spend the rest of your life defending your school of thought against its attackers. And you will spend the rest of your life attacking opposing disciplines. With that in mind, let us remember the example of Socrates who wrote (we think) nothing, and held no position at a university. If philosophy is about free investigation, have institutionalized universities and the type of careers that they foster destroyed the very nature of this discipline?
“How much truth can a spirit bear, how much truth can a spirit dare? That became for me more and more the real measure of value.” – Nietzsche 34 Ecce Homo
It seems like anyone who really cares and works on the greatest problems of our time (Environment, racism, poverty, etc.) has to do it full time in order to make a difference. Anyone who does it part time isn’t really doing anything except trying to have a meaningful life and are actually ignorant of a lot of issues which will probably negate anything that you think you are working for. So, either you are a professional activist or you are a naïve citizen.
Sooooo. What is to be done? one gets the feeling now and again that everyone should stop and evaluate what we are doing and see that we are ripping apart our world and our future. But this only happens during the times of crisis.
I guess we should wait for the next crisis before drastic change takes place.
Having your thoughts published on the internet, or wherever, is a revealing endeavor that leaves one feeling exposed. What if the great idea turns out to be ridiculous, trivial, incoherent, or even racist? Maybe it’s best to just keep silent and comfortable. It’s this point that I’d like to highlight.
A great deal of our ideas about how the world works are what guide our activities, guide our notions of how success (in whatever form) is obtained. When your thoughts are exposed, your life is exposed. So keeping your ideas private are ways we keep ourselves safe, continuing on as we always have. If I open myself up to criticism, my path could change at any moment, derailing my current vision of how the world works, how things are, where I am going and how I will get there. But I believe that opening yourself up to the wisdom and experiences of others is also one of the practices that fosters the most growth. Your ideas will either be met with agreement or disagreement by a community. It’s nice when others like your ideas. But disagreement opens up the realm of choice and deliberate thinking: am I right? why do I think I am right? What do those whom I deem wise say of my ideas? The answers that you give to these questions fundamentally orient your vision, either by entrenching yourself in your position or altering your course.
Disagreements, then, can either be looked at as opportunities to change or to hold your position. The choice is yours. And, remember, it is a choice. One of the freest kinds of choices we have: choose to change or stay the same. The disagreement is the signal that a choice must be made.
So — Write, listen, and make your choice.
I fear that for the past while Idols & Icons has been a bit of a desert when it comes to producing content. If there are still readers out there hanging on, I can tell you that the reason for my absence has been that I was studying for and then recovering from the GRE. I’ve got a few posts just about ready to go. In the meantime, I can share with you one thing I learned from the grueling process, courtesy of Son of the Fathers: “The GRE is a great way to test whether you can study for and take the GRE. That’s about it.”