A brief history of my philosophy
A series of my philosophical positions encapsulated quite neatly:
1. The “philosophy is language and naught else” thesis is not a new position, for I held it several years back. It was certainly fun while watching others decompose in their attempts to refute my Rortyean stance, especially over the Internet where all they could do was respond with text, and utter more words! Now, I don’t mean to try to impress that because I used to be X, and now I’ve realized that X is false, you must realize it too. Rather I wanted to argue against this malady that had infected the general academia in the 20th century as a matter of attacking my own convictions, pace Nietzsche. Perhaps some will take my self-harshness to be condescension, but this is a truism: we are never as harsh as we are to the truths we used to hold.
2. Many other philosophers have held this thesis, and it was a combination of Heidegger and Wittgenstein and Rorty that led me to holding this position. Wittgenstein was my first oasis in the desert of philosophers at the academy – he seemed to avoid all the typical antics and tired crap the others pushed when he pointed out that the meaning of words are always their use in language, and this use is dependent on public and socially based rules. Conventional thinkers went one way when they insisted that the meaning of words depended only on the individual thinker, but Wittgenstein actually went the opposite way by showing us how this was incorrect – we learn the meaning of words through social conventions, through the institution of language. The hook was how thoughts and language were inseparable. Richard Rorty was the next muse of philosophy who bedeviled my thoughts and hypnotized me with his sorcery. He took the best ingredients of the 20th century thinkers (Goodman Quine, Putnam, Sellars), mixed them all up in one gigantic cauldron set to high flame and poured out a tasty dish: language is not a transparent and perfect “mirror of reality,’ because all we can do is cross our fingers and hope that our knowledge does enable us to cope. If language cannot and does not mirror anything, then no words correspond to a ‘real thing’ out there, and then the hard and fast distinction between the sciences and the humanities go up in a puff of smoke. We can never step beyond language and see reality as it is, for we are limited to our models, which are themselves perfect instances of ethnocentrism. I did not understand how for Heidegger, language as the “house of Being” was not merely the declaration that language is how we experience the world, because we do not begin from the world and from our perception. The world shows itself to us instead, and this ‘showing’ is the ‘as-ness’ of language. To be is to be ‘as’ something.
3. All this dogma evaporated once I read Schopenhauer, and for the first time, the Veil of Maya became transparent. Several things: there was a direct acknowledgment of a world of non-linguistic reality, the inner experience, that the existence of world was strangely mystical and cannot be reduced to neat categories in language, that the meaning of life, the values, the morals and aesthetics are all transcendental, and as the most important things in life, they cannot be accounted by language at all. Every single thought, idea, concept, image, symbol, representation, are fundamentally distractions in themselves that prevent people from looking all the way down the rabbit hole, into the heart of the black hole, the bottomless chasm, the very abyss in itself. Ideas and images constantly flicker to and fro, unceasingly, incessantly, always coming and going, for the consciousness is a vaporous quicksilver that is essentially preoccupied with mental activity, in a permanent state of distraction. Yet, reflection has a strange function that quells this constant activity, and peels the layers away, resulting in the realization of the true essence of reality that is both beyond all temporary illusions and in between all those artifacts of consciousness…. Schopenhauer himself teetered on the brink with his philosophy when he attempted to articulate the unsayable, homogenize the unnamable incarnate and I must say, better than any other thinker of modernity. Our slavery to our distractions obscure Schopenhauer’s insightful revelations, preventing us from ever coming to terms with them….
4. Philosophy cannot show what it says – but this is not a sufficient reason to say language is God, that it is an omnipresent, inescapable entity that prevents us from what we want. Language does far more than just exist as a self-referential postmodern pastiche of ironic act – for we do get results through words that point beyond themselves. Comedy arises when something incongruent occurs, when a concept does not account for an object of thought, and that is one of the byproducts of language. the more unexpected the incongruity is, the louder we laugh! Perhaps this is why I take sheer delight in throwing wordswordswords back at the contrarian, a taste of his/her own medicine.