How was it that some people in Ancient Greece took the fateful first step of seeing Wisdom as consisting of logicking, mathematics and science? They called it Reason, and they were called Philosophers.
I get the idea momentarily from somewhere that poetry was in ancient times the natural way to express matters of profundity and ultimacy, which included the gods and their myths; then along came Philosophy with its Reason and this was in prose.
Perhaps one can say that Philosophy from the beginning was a holy duty to abolish the human. It started by removing the gods, who behaved like bad humans, from explanations of how physical things worked. And, since the 19th century, they’ve been taking the human out of how the human mind works. It is an attempt to find material causes rather than intentional acts.
The birth of philosophy was in some ways a regression from the wisdom already present in the culture of ancient Greece with its myths and with its tragic sense of life, and has been so ever since relative to the current culture.
(Not having Greek, I really don’t know whether the ancient dramatists noticed the tragi-comedy of man, while the philosophers with their grinning rationalistic optimism didn’t.) But it seems to me that Plato working out logically that ‘tree’ and ‘dog’ exist as entities and in some kind of heaven, or Descartes working out that he does actually exist because he is thinking, are regressions from wisdom, to put it mildly. A child wouldn’t make these mistakes, unless he were a precocious philosopher. Think too of the whole debate on whether Mind isn’t just Matter!
What little that is human goes on in the Minds of such philosophers? What kind of inner life of the mind have they got?
To repeat myself in slightly different words, and to repeat what may appear in earlier posts, here and here: Philosophers unscramble the wisdoms we already have, such as that we exist and that there is a world out there that we appreciate with our senses, and start again from the bottom, going back to a beginning that we never previously had even as infants. They start all over again from the bottom with the tool of logicking with words.
The wisdoms that were already developed and implicit in our lives and language are wiped away in this going back to logicking from the beginning as if one had learnt nothing. Philosophers wipe away what we already know, and go downwards and backwards to do logicking upwards and upwards on what has already been logicked. They are misled by the logic of words into a maze of abstractions winding upwards into nonsense, the very opposite of what rationality should be.
D.H. Lawrence said somewhere that when one lifts off into abstractions, one loses profundity. I feel one can lift one storey up, with benefit, but then stop
Logic is mandatory in our everyday use of words so that we make sense. But it isn’t otherwise separately a source of Wisdom.
What they call rationality is a putting aside of the human intelligence already present in the words we use, and ending up with something silly.
Besides, Wisdom for me consists of something else entirely than can be got by logicking. It consists of learning the truth about the ways of Man, his darkness, depth and deceptivity, his subtlety and complexity, his feelings, memories, musings, longings, dreams, nostalgias, imaginations, motivations, hatreds and fondnesses, longings for a life of adventure and life, his ironies, deceptions and self-deception, his concealments, falsities, his tragedy, his comedy. It is learning the truth about what we get up to, how we justify it to ourselves and deceive ourselves, and how the rest of humanity does so too. This includes not only Man as individual, but Man moving ponderously as nations, for which other standards of judgment seem to be needed.
How on earth can one get wisdom about oneself and other people and humanity through logicking, mathematicking, and scientificking? It has been a stupidity for 2500 years. It is amazing that no-one has objected; or did Erasmus to some extent? How can people with minds similar to those of scientists give us Wisdom on human life? It is absurd, a gigantic Category Mistake (which is a big philosophical term that may not be quite right).
Logic, mathematics and science have been the extent to which the minds of philosophers work. They take these as comprising Reason, which leads them to a facile understanding of the life of the human self, and then to use it as a basis for step-by-step logicking into ‘abstractions’ which impress people as Wisdom on human life.
That certain something of human intelligence that philosophers lack hasn’t even got a name and is considered to fall outside Reason and Rationality. In an earlier post mentioned above, I steal the term ‘Sensibility to the irreducible concreteness of human life’ from Leavis. Their minds don’t encompass it. No-one’s mind can encompass everything; but for my taste, their form of Wisdom makes them the arch-nerds of Western Civilization.
Understanding Adam and Eve, including oneself, is what I call Wisdom, not Newton working out that a ball keeps rolling for ever unless there is something to stop it, or that the sun goes round the earth, or that sugar causes tooth decay. They are a great achievement — I still can’t fathom how Newton reached the truths he did in the 1690s! Alright, these examples are from science which brought philosophy to fruition, but they still aren’t wisdom. They are technically useful, many of them saving us from suffering. One can know them, and still be a pedestrian fellow in life and in words, in feeling and in understanding.
Adam and Eve have subtle ways, subtle motives, subtle past histories of influences upon them, not apparent even to themselves, and knowing them takes other than logicking, mathematicking and scientificking. Even the ways of honest people aren’t understood by way of logic, mathematics and scientific method. Although they are called Reason or Rationality as if they are the highest form of thinking, they are simply inappropriate to understanding the life of humans, or to any form of life high enough to have a self, such as my scraggy old dog.
But Philosophers, and social and human scientists too, insist on making statements on human life. They do so from atop edifices of logic, maths and science on the subject built up since the 19th century. When I hear a distinguished person of the university doing so, I consign him to the ranks of the uneducated.
Some philosophers take seriously the idea that the mind is the brain, and that this mind-brain is similar to Artificial Intelligence. Good heavens! What kind of inner life must their own minds have?
One small thing missing from Philosophers is their own human self-knowledge. Self-knowledge isn’t something that comes by way of logicking, mathematicking or scientificking. Philosophy has a dearth of inner mental life.