Reply to Austin 1: on sophistication in philosophy

Lovis Corinth, Diogenes, oil on canvas, 1892

Lovis Corinth, Diogenes, oil on canvas, 1892

Hi Austin,

thank you for your generous compliment. Your use of the word ‘sophistication’ in relation to philosophy stimulated me to also think about that same relationship.

In my view, philosophy has been made almost synonymous with ‘sophistication’. Ever since its origins, when it was divorced from the test of praxis and bound to contemplation (contemplum/sacred place set apart for divination) it was left open to sophistication, inevitably taken to the nth degree by scholastics – medieval and modern.

Sophistication is not only used to dress mutton (philosophical idealism) as lamb (new ‘isms’), its intricacies in philosophy are deployed Siren-like to draw the innocent and unsuspecting from the evil that is materialism.

Sophistication is also used to cover over a profound fraud, an immense lie in patriarchal Western philosophy – that the intuitive, dialectical reason of mysticism – which pervades Western culture – is a rigorous conceptual reason that justifies the West distinguishing itself from the rest (i.e. that justifies Western supremacism).

Hegel is the high point and mystical high-priest of this current.

Then there was Diogenes (‘born of God’). Raw, uncompromising towards what we understand as ‘niceness’ and ‘decency’, he told Alexander to stop blocking the light as he sat in his barrel with Alexander standing over him, having offered to grant him any wish.

And even with the aid of a lantern in daylight, Diogenes couldn’t find one honest man.

Certainly not a materialist, but he’s still my hero.

Best wishes,

Filippo

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7 thoughts on “Reply to Austin 1: on sophistication in philosophy

  1. that the intuitive, dialectical reason of mysticism – which pervades Western culture – is a rigorous conceptual reason that justifies the West distinguishing itself from the rest .
    okay — does this mean that the capitol ‘w’ West — thinks it is more logically based and therefore superior to the ‘mystical’ chanting, prayer wheeling East? I’m trying to get this and was, btw, very flattered that you did a blog in response to my comment. for me sophistication is good because it’s a lack of fussy ornamentation, it’s ‘cool’ rather than hot and over-the-top and it’s, let’s face it, just superior, the way people and ideas and design with taste are better than any of those things without it.

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    • Hi Austin,

      Yes, I do mean that fundamental to the West’s supremacism – a supremacism and the crudity of which are now on display in response to the recent murders in France – is a belief that we are ‘more logical’, more ‘rational’ than not only the ‘prayer-wheeling East’ but the rest of the world.

      This lie has been used to justify the West’s imperialism.

      Hegel, the very person who, using mystical philosophy, exposed the flaw of a reason that excludes contradiction was the greatest perpetrator of the lie of Western reason – that it is only linguistic and conceptual.

      This lie is parroted by time-servers in academia.

      Hegel’s never naming the genius Cusanus of whom he was acutely aware and never acknowledging his immense debt to him (which I will argue in my thesis) is emblematic of other patriarchal philosophers regarding mysticism (Wittgenstein is another). While responding deeply to and drawing on mysticism, they presented what they took from it as the most ‘rigorous’ reason. In doing so, they treated mysticism like pornography.

      My criticism is not of sophistication but of how it has been used in philosophy (an element in ideology) as a cover – to divorce thought from its testing in practice (a denial of how we have developed as a species and how we live), to undermine not only our natural confidence in our senses but our trust in what is, as mysticism recognises, deepest to us – our intuition – which I believe is another form of reason – what has been consigned in Western culture to ‘the feminine’.

      Best wishes, Filippo

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  2. I’d say that one can have too much or too little sophistication. Mysticism is the very opposite of western thought and it is usually dismissed as nonsense just as you dismiss it here. If mysticism was endorsed in western thought then it wouldn’t be any different to eastern thought.

    Just goes to show how opinions can vary. 🙂

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    • Hi Peter,

      Thank you for your comment. My blog is a defence of mysticism – not, as a materialist, of its practice, but of its profound significance to our culture. I argue that philosophers must be honest about that influence and in doing so, be prepared to consider the range of ways in which we think about the world and how they inter-relate.

      Re- your point of opinions varying – I would like to think that Diogenes could be, at least to some degree, proven incorrect and that the glue for the expression of those differences – mutual respect on the basis of honesty – can be found.

      Regards, Phil

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      • Interesting. Mysticism is a practice first and foremost so I struggle a bit to see what you mean. The philosophy of mysticism, which emerges entirely form practice, is uniformly rejected in the western tradition and this could be said to be a matter of definition, so this influence you speak of is not obvious. Kant is often rejected as too ‘woo’ so Hegel is way outside the boundaries. If the influence of eastern philosophy was strong then philosophy of mind and metaphysics would be transformed. I suppose I’m missing something here, but to me the nondual approach to philosophy appears to be the exact antithesis of western thought. That’s just my take on it. Seems to me that nobody in this tradition takes de Cusa seriously, if they’ve even read him.

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  3. Thanks for the blog which introduces me some aspects of western philosophy that seems to be a little ‘sophisticated’ for me. 😛 I had found myself somewhat perplexed while reading books on western philosophy many years ago. Reading your blog, I wonder now if the disconnection from mysticism is the reason that I found those reading experiences perplexing.

    Last week I saw a friend sharing a picture of ‘Diogenes searching for an honest man’ online, and I am glad to read your comment ‘Re- your point of opinions varying – I would like to think that Diogenes could be, at least to some degree, proven incorrect and that the glue for the expression of those differences – mutual respect on the basis of honesty – can be found.’ I find myself uneasy with the seemingly strong emphasis on sinfulness of humanity in the west, and am concerned if such an emphasis have a positive or negative impact on the morale of the society.

    Anyway, thanks for the blogs that provide me glimpses to areas of philosophy that I am not familiar with, yet am curious of.

    Best wishes
    Yi Ping Wang

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    • Hi Yi Ping Wang, and thank you very much for your always thoughtful, informative and stimulating communications. You quite possibly know that Nietzsche wrote excellently on the sinfulness of humanity in the West – the Cross hangs over us all! (Gulp!) My very best wishes to you too, Phil

      Liked by 1 person

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