This book should be written because it would clarify how thinking things through, in the way we autistics do for everyday survival, is both painstaking and necessary for all of us. That is also the reason why the title should not read “The History of Autistic Philosophy” – not because we cannot diagnose dead philosophers but because it would increase the rift between everyman’s everyday struggles and philosophy as thinking things through.
It is not the case that all philosophers are (somewhat) autistic. Still all original philosophy is, in a very practical sense, autistic as it takes mundane, unquestioned facts to be deeply problematical. When Aristotle talks about wonder the metaphor is that of a child picking a toy apart to see how it works. It is such wonder that fuels reaching for the unreachable. Reaching for the unreachable is at the same time exhausting as it makes one retreat into the safe confines of a predictable world where everything can be taken as self-evident: a world of unquestioned repetitive ritual, prejudice and superstition.
I believe that my (I call dibs!) Autistic History of Philosophy will improve understanding of one another as well as of our selves. Let me explain myself:
Heidegger says: “Already the ‘thinking of death’ is publicly considered as the cowards fear.”
I die a thousand deaths each and every day.
They creep up on me like shivers up my crooked spine.
Make me catch my breath into my chronically shrunken lungs.
Slowly swell my prostate as if I was hit – hard – in the fucking groin.
Makes my mind spin into feeling (oh so!) special.
At the end of a life I feel like I am on top of the world,
before it all comes a-crushing crashing down. I melt – down –
to being dead inside. Life springs from that, I mean: for now at least.
‘Bummer!’ being booming business nowadays, I just go for “Mens insana in Corpore non sano.” Is it so strange to want death or is it just a part of life I happen to know better than most? The idea that dying is a once-in-a-lifetime thing at the end of life is entirely strange to me. Which makes me strange but maybe not a stranger to you.
Permit me an accusation in the form of a confession.
What’s the point of living forever, if living means your identity does not survive even the briefest of moments? People are trained to see their life and identity as something sacred (sacred enough to trample other people and shit all over their identities) and it is a bogus conditioning. In the West we have replaced God with Truth but our zeal to convert others has stayed essentially the same. The only thing which has changed is that we believe that our life – that we – have become sacred cows giving the divine milk of wisdom. All the life preserving bullshit we inhale constantly invariably leads to seeing life as a struggle – one in which we have to prevail by making our point.
Choosing life has become synonymous with becoming deaf to others. It is ludicrous as we find ourselves complaining nobody wants to listen to us. It makes us feel dead inside. The thing is – and this is why I write – that it’s not life that makes life worth living but longing: the longing for being longed for. If for whatever reason you cannot be longed for then it’s time to throw in the towel and just fade away. People will tend to hear this as negative, in denying the value of life but I consider it a fact that the value in living comes from trying to understand others. Life’s a positive thing, death can’t touch it.
A lot has been said about continental and analytic philosophy. Sometimes it seems like it has been invented just to shoot at each other. Still, good philosophy can’t but come to the same conclusion: that there are no facts except inter-personal ones. Facts are moral. First there was an ought, it is the is that will remain forever imperfect.
Below the fold there is an imperfect exercise in trying to argue just that. Continue reading
Posted in JoB, Kolakowski
Tagged Arendt, Davidson, Dilthey, Gadamer, Kant, Kolakowski, Neurath, Quine, scientism, Socrates
‘Let me try this. I don’t get it. Does this matter? Did that?’ I looked forlorn and was taken by others to look for loneliness. Maybe I was. Who could tell? I felt abandoned to my own wits which I happened not to have about. ‘What now? Try again!’ and again and again it hit me like a noise in a flock of noises fluttering about in the room picking on me, one at a time but at the same time all together.
I said: “Cafeterias are torture chambers. They should be banned.”. That was a weird thing to say judging from the awkwardness that ensued. I shut up. I played with the dough that formed itself between me and the others. I knew I could shape it, condense it and – when in shape – manipulate it. ‘Human relations are made of clay.’, I didn’t say that as I couldn’t get a grip on them in the there and then.
Freeze or fleece, that is the question.
It’s common to see autism linked to (a lack of) imagination, sense of humor, empathy and a host of other human qualities. That makes me wonder. After all, I feel ‘all too human’ to identify with robots or “very-large-brained” apes. I kid you not: these are analogies made by a leading autism researcher in a best-selling book. He might defend himself by saying it was an attempt at vulgarizing science. That does not change the fact such comparisons are, plainly and simply, vulgar.
Maybe it’s because since my diagnosis I finally form part of a minority (instead of merely feeling that way) that I’m more philosophically sensitive about generalization (instead of merely finding them bullshit). Denying human qualities to people is inhuman. It isn’t any less inhumane to qualify that such qualities are statistically less present in a certain set of people. We’re after all not talking about length or the ability to dance or dress well.
So, the problem has to lie in a confusion of how the word is understood. Clearing up such misunderstanding then has the double benefit of understanding better what such human qualities are not and taking away related false generalizations holding a minority down.
This is what I attempted to do in a (philosophical) way in this paper for one case: that of autism and imagination. I do not believe it is an easy read but if you want to check it out at the level of the abstract, you’ll find that below the fold as a (non-?)appetizer. Continue reading
“Let us keep this notion of split reference in mind, as well as the wonderful ‘It was and it was not,’ which contains in nuce all that can be said about metaphorical truth.” P. Ricoeur, The Rule of Metaphor, Routledge Classics, 2003, p. 265.
Being a logical kind of guy, I don’t particularly like fairy tales. Still, I think the law of non-contradiction is worse than a fairy tale. It is a hoax. Proven useful to open cans, it wound up opening one full of worms. Its next of kin are identity and the excluded middle. It’s the triumvirate of a logical tyranny that suffocates us to a point of becoming a prejudice against every prejudice.
I believe can-openers are useful tools, certainly if the can they open is critical thought. It is however not the case that critical thought has merit in and of itself. Critical thought is to the good life as food is to a healthy body, not less but at the same time not more. What it allows if taken in good measure is to find the middle; overconsumption though leads to becoming bloated and – full of it – using it as a stick to beat the life out of every argument.
The nice thing about stories is that, as Ricoeur rightly has it, they keep us in suspense and thereby create something new. They’re alive and as such infinitely closer to the good life than any artificial construct could ever be. I will believe in Artificial Intelligence if it can weave or listen to a good story, create a telling metaphor or be insulted by being likened to artifice. Call that the Bervoets-test.
Anyway, let’s make this political.
“Selves can only exist in definite relationships to other selves.”, G. H. Mead, Mind, Self & Society, The University of Chicago Press, p. 164.
I am in therapy. The question is: what makes me tick like a time bomb? The idea is that if we find the detonator we can defuse my self-destructive tendencies to so avoid my lights going on red. I feel the hand of therapists guided by society inside my mind carefully and meticulously disentangling the faulty wiring. Let’s hope they aren’t too nervous because I am. I can go from green to red and back again without ever giving off a warning orange.
I so should give them a helping hand. So let me explain my self (if even only to myself).