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I Hate Philosophy
At least Gray Kochhar-Lindgren can be philosophical about it.
Being an academic, my hatred of philosophy is, of course, something that hitherto I have only confided to the closest of my friends, and even then only after three glasses of Agiorghitiko at the little beachside taverna on Mykonos after spending the day beneath the summer’s scorching sun wandering around the ruins on Delos. Intoxicated, I can tell the truth. Sober, I lie. I am now drunk: I hate philosophy; I despise philosophy; I loathe philosophy.
You already know why I hate philosophy. It is all as monotonously predictable as the fact that x, y, and z follow one another, and as surely as the sun will rise each morning. There is, then, no reason to read further. Go: live your life, experience its beautiful fullness, and for heaven’s sake leave the obsessive-compulsive minutiae of philosophy behind. (Why, by the way, do they all have to write in such an unnecessarily complicated manner? Can’t they just be clear, distinct, and get to the point?) If you can have the good common sense and the courage to do it, this would be the sunniest of decisions – a decision made at noon, and one that will lead you to a new vigor and health. Thinking makes us ill-tempered and confused; thinking riddles us with parasites of ideas. Thinking is a parasite. Philosophy is the essence of sickness. Go. Be happy. Be hale and healthy. Get outside. It is, to my dismay, far too late for me.
“But why?”, you ask (as if you understood freedom, the form of questioning, and all that that entails). Why this hatred of philosophy to the very essence, to the very ground and foundation of my being?
The trap has now been set. Once you step into the labyrinth, you cannot step out, for the labyrinth is not a maze with an inside and an outside. The set-up is an immersion, and it will crush us in its pitiless jaws. This is its cruelty.
Why? A simple question – one small word; but it invites a response that is not only interminable – there is simply not enough time and space to set out the response – it is also a question which has infinite complexity. There is a fundamental imbalance between my (and our) capacity and the force of the question. If in any way I attempt to answer this ‘Why?’ – it looks so innocent, doesn’t it, so beguiling? – then I am doomed to philosophy. But if I refuse, then I cannot take the next step of freeing myself, and this time I hope for good, from philosophy…
I hate philosophy because it takes on problems that are too big for itself, that it can never adequately address, and that exceed its own self-definitions and methodologies. It is immeasurable, and it thereby cracks all of our attempts at measuring out our lives through taking the measure of measurement. I hate philosophy because it is so repetitious: it continues to take on the same old questions time-and-time again. It’s like a dog trying to get comfortable, restlessly circling around on its rumpled fireside rug. The eternal return grinds us down to dust and ash. Not only is it so boring that it drives us out of our minds, it’s also completely useless, producing nothing – nothing at all – of value. My scientific and business friends simply shake their heads, with some pity to be sure, and amiably scoff. The insoluble. The unprogressive. The intractable. The impossible. All those tiny prefix negations. That’s not the way, they assure me, that real knowledge works; and it sure as hell isn’t the way capital works. What, pray tell, is monetizable about such niggling around the a priori? “What kind of job do you want?” they would always ask, eyebrows slightly raised, ever since I caught the bug: “What are you going to do with philosophy?”
It’s excessive, repetitious, and useless. I hate it. Be a philosopher and not only will you know nothing and produce nothing, but you will also be poverty-stricken. Philosophy, connected indissolubly as it is with both eros and ethics, is always poor. It wants but it cannot have what it wants because what it wants recedes as thinking approaches it. This receding, to be sure, makes room for more thinking – if ‘more’ is the right word here – but there is never the satisfaction of possession: never the “I have you and now, at last, I can use you for my own ends!” Instead, we are possessed by philosophy – we are stricken; and how embarrassing is this admission in this age of the blasé? All eros and ethics can do is open doors and windows, make room for whatever is to appear, and to greet whatever it is as it appears and goes. There is no power at work here – of politics or money or media. It’s just cracking open the window, letting in a little air, a little light. That’s pitiful; it makes me gnash my teeth and want to weep.
I hate philosophy for many other reasons as well, and I can give reasons for those reasons, but I am exhausted at the moment. I do wonder, though, what the ‘at’, the ‘the’, and the ‘moment’ signify in that phrase; how these random sounds in a historically constrained language operate to indicate a condition of experience that places time in conjunction with a moodful state of the body – ‘exhausted’.
I am exhausted, ergo I cannot, at the moment, do more. This hatred, though, runs deep, and will, I’m sure, incite me at some point (and who knows, perhaps the point will turn into a line and the line will learn to fly) to return to the site of the wound and to touch, again, upon the loathsomeness of that enigma called ‘philosophy’.
© Prof. Gray Kochhar-Lindgren 2018
Gray Kochhar-Lindgren is a Professor at Hong Kong University.