History teaches us that the mode of philosophical thought predetermines its results. Philosophy, conceived as either a reflective, a contemplative or a communicative discipline – where philosophizing is the act of reflection, contemplation or communication – contains the impulse towards a system. What often entrenches the mind is dogma, in the form of worthless first principles, the advocacy of degenerating metaphysics, and the required lip-service to distinguished intellectuals. In order to resist this solidification of the mind, drop the abstract play of abstractions and return back to the present moment and rethink the situation, the problem, the concept under question. Moreover, a rigorous and honest self-criticism will help avoid the repetition of ineffective methods. Perhaps new directions, even if they are risky, are called for, since by giving up in comfort and security, one gains new ground by boldness. When the mind makes itself fluid and mobile – call the concept into question – war is declared against slothfulness, the inertia of thought, and static views and isolated idee fixes are condemned.
What ultimately limits people is a deep and protracted bad faith – far worse than just an inability to confront reality – for it is a refusal of seeing things as they are in perception. The older one becomes, the more he or she sinks into the past, into obsolesce and irrelevance. What is already agreed as the consensus turns into a doctrine – a systematic treatise that demands “thou must” – a mental veil that prevents clear perception, a wall that blocks new paths of thought. The true spirit of philosophy is never the unquestioning and slavish adulation of the zeitgeist, for its history is far more active and constructive in the creation of concepts, even though this very assertion already falls short.
In order to rid oneself of myths and misconceptions one must give up the search for a first principle of metaphysics -a foundation of knowledge, a logical sequence of concepts, or a conceptual framework that serves as a perfect sieve where everything is filtered through, information in, garbage out – for the magic formula to philosophy does not exist. Concepts are mere shadows of perception, derivative, and they function as vague possibilities in the brain. In the creation of the concept, the thinker is absorbed in experience, and in pure perception insights emerge and inspire a whole new perspective, an appropriate understanding of reality. In order to become a free thinker, all fetishes of intellectualism (books, techniques, formulas, catchy slogans) must be given up.
Whenever one contemplate over an unpleasant experience, oftentimes one think in the hypothetical: if only I had done this instead of that! The correct method or the solution arrives long after it is needed. But this is not the problem, that the thought is too late and one’s knowledge is blamed for being deficient. Had I known more, or thought more carefully! The actual solution is a failure of being truly absorbed in the here and now – paying careful attention to the text – and remain insensitive to the changing circumstances. I continually repeat my own thoughts, re-apply old theories and ideas that have nothing to do with the present situation. Reading additional books, absorbing theories and re-thinking do not improve the problem either. Consciousness is a river one cannot step in twice at the same point.
The creative thinker is conspicuous and stands apart from the rest – not because they know more – for they are capable of discarding preconceived notions, their subjectivity, and focus intensely in their perception by having the imagination to peer beyond the immediate objects of perception. Where the scholar constructs idealized structures (ideal political state, rational morality, mathematical formula) according to rationality, and his servile loyalty leads to a constant confusion of the model for the real and force experience to filter through such tidy algorithms, the thinker knows the right way to articulate what is and what isn’t, without the crutch of a philosophical system, especially when he realizes the inadequacy of language itself, in a profound encounter with being.
However, knowledge, experience and theories are all limited themselves, for careful reflection does not truly prepare oneself for the chaos of life and the limitless possibilities that it contains. This difference between our convictions and what actually happens is “friction,” and the difference is permanent. Our minds should be pliable enough to keep up with change and adapt to surprises. The more one adapts one’s thoughts to the circumstances, the more authentic one’s knowledge will be. On the other hand the farther one is buried in predigested theories and other people’s experiences, the more distant and distorted his/her thoughts become.
While there is value in investigating the failure of previous thoughts, it is more important to develop the ability to think in the moment. the mind is akin to a river: the faster it flows, the better it keeps up with the present, for change is constant and new paradigms of thoughts are possible. Only the agents of change drive intellectual revolutions in science, in philosophy, and in art.
The first principle of thought is to dispense with all principles, all systems of philosophy, all the “ism” school of thought. The very greatest of all philosophers were not mere mouthpieces of a monolith of systematic metaphysics, for they found a new perspective of all-too-familiar problems, tired subjects and other dead-end topics. The scholar’s conviction that philosophy must obey inexorable laws or function according to timeless rules results in a rigid and static position, is married by a myopic perspective, one that easily hardens theory into dogma. The sacred cows of the past are all hollow idols that deserve the hammer of the allzermalmer, since they typically fail Nietzsche’s “tuning fork” test. For the oldest idols of them all are are also – the hollowest!
Our education is a major obstacle for independent thinking, due to its tendency to inscribe “precepts” deep within the mind of the student. The trained thinker wastes time struggling with learned rules rather than the present circumstances. Socrates holds the key: the thinker knows nothing and began anew, free of even the most cherished ideals. His mentality isn’t cluttered – for his insights come from immediate experience, an authentic intuition. He thinks, rather than depend on crutches like someone else’s book or theory.
The current paradigm of philosophy is actually a dangerous impediment for freethinking – even if it does seem to be successful and solve a host of problems. The member of the ruling ideology tends to echo the same strategies of thought, which turns him into a mental sloth, complacent enough to fall in step with the times. A true thinker should remain constantly suspicious, and avoid getting drunk on the zeitgeist by recasting each problem of philosophy in a new light.
Children themselves are naturally adaptive; their minds were constant, always receptive to new experiences and capable of immersing themselves thoroughly. The child learned quickly, for the world is completely new. When facing obstacles (frustration, boredom) the child became creative in their dealing with the problems, and moved on to other things. In this respect, the geniuses such as Leibniz, Plato, etc., were childlike. They saw things as they are, and remained sensitive to inconstant experience. Because change is perpetual, the mentally fluid adapts the quickest to the circumstances, dispensing with preconceived notions.
In the history of philosophy, progress occurs only when a generation successfully identifies the unexamined notions of its previous generation. The current generation develops a new method of thought that maximized a novel way of seeing. The thinker has a extraordinary antenna that is synchronized for the budding trends in thought, while retaining the inherent character of flexibility in order to adapt to those trends. In other words, the thinker is ahead of everyone else, because he lacks the sentimentality that is attached to a fashionable school of thought, and knows which rising trend is viable. The mind of the thinker is as pliable as a quicksilver.
The predictability of daily life is inimical to free thinking, for insights sometimes come during or after a complete shattering of habitual behavior. Comfort and routine and stale pattern often entrench the mind with stale patterns, and enchain it to the past. One often begins with a great idea, but during the execution, the idea is buried under a straitjacket of a rigid structure of form, and the process of creation of thought is merely mechanical. When the mind is forced to deal with a new aspect of reality, it might be risky, but also, refreshing and reinvigorating. When people are acting as they often do, the dynamic stays the same. Once a novel way of thinking takes place, the dynamic is transformed, and new possibilities emerge. When the mind adapts to the complexity and chaos of the world by becoming a quicksilver, free of rigid tactics or the comforts of static positions where it is obliged to defend an idea. Old problems gain new angles for attack.
In summary, this is intended as a strategy of thought for wrestling with a problem, a concept, and in dealing with the friction and the discrepancy between what is intended and what actually occurs. Whether this entire exercise is a thinly veiled entry of “thou must,” or self-criticism, a private lesson that subtly erects another principle of philosophy for all mankind, it does not depend on whether the writer must be a philosopher. Perhaps a “mock” philosopher can outline the zones of thought that is what Proust calls the “real without being actual, ideal without being abstract.” The reader is free to determine this a “credo ut intelligam,” and rifle what is useful and then discard the rest as nonsense.
“To know that one is in a certain condition, in a certain state, is already a process of liberation; but a man who is not aware of his condition, of his struggle, tries to be something other than he is, which brings about habit. So, then, let us keep in mind that we want to examine what is, to observe and be aware of exactly what is the actual, without giving it any slant, without giving it an interpretation. It needs an extraordinarily astute mind, an extraordinarily pliable heart, to be aware of and to follow what is; because what is, is constantly moving, constantly undergoing a transformation, and if the mind is tethered to belief, to knowledge, it ceases to pursue, it ceases to follow the swift movement of what is. What is, is not static, surely – it is constantly moving , as you will see if you observe it very closely. To follow it you need a very swift mind and a pliable heart – which are denied when the mind is static, fixed in a belief, in a prejudice, in an identification; and a mind and heart that are dry cannot follow easily, swiftly, that which is.” – Krishnamurti