What is philosophy the love of?

Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825) The Death of Socrates, 1787, oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825) The Death of Socrates, 1787, oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Hi Tach,

thank you for your comment and wishes. Thirty-two years of absolute commitment in pursuit of my intellectual vision (a concept, as Utzon and many others have experienced, which provokes the same response in Australia as daylight does from Dracula) academically in an authoritarian, anti-intellectual, shame-based and servile culture (all elements of the founding convict culture recently celebrated yet again by Abbott’s awarding a knighthood to the English queen’s husband and prior to that, by Obama’s showing his contempt for him – and thereby, for all Australians – at the G20 etc., etc.) have come to an end.

The most determined avoidance and ignorance of the subject of my intellectual vision – the pervasive impact of mysticism on Western culture and its relationship to dialectical materialism – is the greatest failure in social and intellectual responsibility by generations of time (i.e. capitalist class)-serving academics, particularly in the humanities.

William Franke’s two volume anthology On What Cannot be Said exemplifies the extent to which mysticism has impacted on Western philosophy (in particular), religion, literature and the arts, and it is a failure which, with the decline of the latest fashion in capitalist ideology – ‘postmodernism’ – these philosopher-servants (‘are we now post-postmodernism?’ one of them asks blithely) are now moving ever so gingerly to address.

The assertion by philosophers that what they have drawn from mysticism (which they have treated as their pornography – immensely energising when studied in private but not to be acknowledged and to be dissembled about or denied when questioned on its influence on their work) is in fact the result of the most rigorous conceptual reason is the greatest fraud on social and intellectual responsibility, a blatant lie in support of Western (increasingly threatened) capitalist supremacism – ‘We reason, you stare at your navel and chant “Om”, worship nature, are ruled with failed ideologies or are hung-up on filial piety’.

The supremacist Hegel1 was the high-priest of this. His altar boy Wittgenstein (Heraclitus without the Heraclitus, who wrote in the Foreword to his Philosophical Remarks that he would have dedicated the book to the glory of God but people wouldn’t have understood), as Russell noted, had much to say on what cannot be said – all set out in meticulous mathematical order. There are numerous others.

The present-day philosopher-servants of capital, people who would never go near mysticism before when the modernist and pomo bandwagons were rolling down main street, to be ridden for successful careers (bandwagons themselves suffused with mysticism), academics who rejected me, who abused me, who refused to recommend me for teaching what amounts to the basis for an entire cultural re-reading – an honest cultural re-reading, telling me I am intolerant of the views of others but when asked for evidence could provide none from many hours of class-time, then taught an awareness they got from me, must know that the subject of Western mysticism (particularly modern Western mysticism) has the potential to blow the lid on so much that they and their academic fellows and forebears have been utterly complicit in.

All these people who are now updating their songbooks have histories and should be held to account. Mysticism is not new to Western culture – it runs right through it to the present and its influence on Western culture has been and continues to be profound.

Ever calculating intellectual cowards, I believe these philosopher-servants don’t know what to do with such a hot potato now that they have been forced, by circumstances, to take it.

I believe the results of my absolute commitment and efforts over thirty two years to understand and explicate the impact of mysticism on Western culture have been appropriated from me at both the College of Fine Arts, UNSW and the University of Sydney, while I have been contained, laughed at (in 1999 I submitted a proposal to teach a course titled ‘Art and Ideology through Modernism’ to the Centre for Continuing Education at the University of Sydney. My referees were a professor in the department of fine arts at the university and a prominent Australian art writer. After numerous phone calls to the CCE because I had received neither a reply nor a decision, I finally spoke with a woman who asked me the name of my proposed course. When I told her, this provincial fool laughed, saying ‘That course wouldn’t suit our demographic’ and hung up), and excluded.

My blog has resulted from these and many other similar experiences.

Best regards, Phil

Note

1. ‘(The Oriental spirit) remains impoverished, arid, and just a matter for the understanding. For this reason we find, on the part of Orientals, only reflections, only arid understanding, a completely external enumeration of elements, something utterly deplorable, empty, pedantic, and devoid of spirit, an elaboration of logic similar to the old Wolffian logic. It is the same with Oriental ceremonies.

This is the general character of Oriental religious representations and philosophy. There is, as in their cultus, on the one hand an immersion in devotion, in substance, and so the pedantic detail of the cultus – a vast array of the most tasteless ceremonies and religious activities – and on the other hand, the sublimity and boundlessness in which everything perishes.

There are two Oriental peoples whom I wish to mention, the Chinese and the Indians.’

G.W.F.Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy 1825-6 Volume I: Introduction and Oriental Philosophy, Together With the Introductions from the Other Series of These Lectures, Trans. Robert F. Brown and J.M. Stewart, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2009, 106

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8 thoughts on “What is philosophy the love of?

  1. His altar boy Wittgenstein . . . I guess I never realized you disliked, or felt disdain for, Wittgenstein. So much of what you’re writing is just miles above my head. I don’t understand Hegel, for starters, and am not especially tempted. I think I’ve said this before — from my very limited (I cop to that absolutely!) understanding of Ludwig the Great (just kidding) I believe he never doubted the reality of mystical experiences but said it was impossible to discuss them meaningfully. As a numerologist, I hear all sorts of fantastic stories from people about ‘mystical’ experiences and feel priviledged to do so. The reality around us is so much more complicated than what we can imagine and, from my experience again, as a numerologist, the way the greater universe communicates with each of us waaaaay lesser beings is so personalized, quirky even, there is obviously a much, much, much greater intelligence and reality beyond what we can see here on our beautiful and rapidly being destroyed (I agree with you on this for sure) by the greedy capitalist creeps who are put forth as our new heroes. Ick. One thing is for sure: I admire the passion you bring to your thoughts and writing and your ability to organize such complicated material and make it even somewhat understandable to the likes of me. Hope all is well in the land ‘down under.’ Oh, and being snubbed by Obama? Take that as a lucky break so as not to be subjected to his smiling lies. He’s just another whore of Wall Street — it doesn’t matter what color or what party — anyone who gets into that office is out of the same brothel.

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    • Hi Austin, great to hear from you.

      Whenever I comment on Wittgenstein (always critically) I give it a lot of thought because I know you think very highly of him. I (am one of those who) intensely dislike him and it is important for me to express this when I think about him – in my view he was a model for everything philosophy is not – that he believed he ‘had done’ with philosophy with his Tractatus is a measure of his, at best, arrogance. Not only was he a bully he, like Hegel, was utterly dishonest about his relationship with mysticism – the big difference being (in my view) that buried in Hegel’s often pretentious waffle (btw did you know that Lenin criticised Marx for this?!) is brilliance, an expansive intellect (though his system too was meant to be the final word) and much true philosophy.

      Looking forward to you next original, imaginative, no-nonsense-tolerated-here and powerful chapter, Filippo

      PS Re- Obama and Abbott – I watched Obama on Stephen Colbert’s show where he humorously ‘took-over’ the segment. Whatever criticisms Obama deserves, he showed he was streets ahead of Abbott in intelligence. Abbott is widely regarded in Australia as a ‘red-necked’ fool who has done a lot of damage to the Australian economy.

      Again, looking forward to your next chapter, Filippo

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  2. I can so relate to your critique of academic philosophy, Phil. I was lucky to get tenure before they realized what I was up to, but even then, I “retired” in my mid-fifties, and hightailed it to Japan to begin my learning. BTW, there is an article in this week’s New Yorker concerning new research into psychedelics, and it seems the scientists are unabashedly using William James’ insights into mysticism. How’s that for a turn around?

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    • Hello jhanagan2014,

      thank you for your comment. Universities, as you know from much experience, are large concentrations of people. What distinguishes them is that they continually make claim to upholding the highest principles (‘if you are caught plagiarising…the most serious consequences…etc.’). They ‘guard their name’ and ‘ethical practice’ is used as a selling point in their competition for students.

      Who would you be more critical of – a thief who broke into your house and either was or was not caught with the physical goods or one who not only claimed to be motivated the whole time by the highest principles but was also highly educated and linguistically adroit?

      Re- James etc. – there is a growing interest in mysticism (I’m sure you know this) which, unless it is soundly based on a materialist perspective (I can’t see this happening under capitalism) doesn’t bode well.

      Capitalism is and its ideologues are endlessly adaptable. Ruthless appropriation is the name of the game – as I have learnt.

      The ANU, Australia’s consistently highest ranking university, now has a course on mysticism.

      Best regards, Phil

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  3. Hi Phil, I wanted to comment on this absolutely mind widening post, but I’m looking at a 15 hour shift tomorrow, so I need a proper rest, hopefully. I’ll definitely come back, but before that would you please define a bit more in detail, with your very own words -you do better than most of the philosophers you quote-, what do you mean by mysticism? Am asking because I’d like to initiate a deeper discussion with you, as an open dialogue about the relevance of a deconverted theologian-philosopher’s discourse in times like ours, when some sort of intellectual sanity seems to be emerging, post or ante tenebras, remains to be seen.

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    • Hi Moshe, thank you for your generous comment. I will think about my response before I post a reply. I would be very appreciative if anyone who reads my blog would like to comment on what you think mysticism is. I drove taxis for 23 years and used to do what are known in the industry as ‘semi-doubles’ (back-to-back 12 hour shifts). Even though the driver is supposed to take a break somewhere in the middle, it took me days to get over it each time I did one so my thoughts and best wishes to you for when you do your shift tomorrow Moshe, Phil

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  4. Nice post, again. Seldom in blog-space and media in general is there the sort depth and clarity found here. I imagine it can be a tireless and often thankless task going against the grain of the hegemonic dialogue. Thanks for it.

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    • Thank you Roten Grund for your comment. I will be writing to both the University of Sydney and the University of NSW detailing the time-serving ignorance and treachery I have experienced over thirty two years at both (why I have remained in this culture for so long is evidence of the damage it has done to me). All I can expect, at best, from these upholders of principles, will be ‘concern’, brittle pretence, grease, oil and lies. I will be writing with no hope of justice (the subject – the impact of mysticism – is the basis for a complete cultural re-reading, and this at precisely the same time as pomo has run out of steam, so these ideologues, having been so complicit, could never give credit to a socialist, to one who holds Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky in the highest regard, let alone to a ‘mere student’ who refuses to bow down to capitalism as they do) but to assert myself, to say ‘I am’, that my efforts have been and my achievements are – that they were and are real. Phil

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