Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My Problem as a Transcendental Philosopher

   This post is on a personal level rather than a scholarly one.  There are difficulties I face in life because of my decision (fate?) to become a transcendental philosopher, and to pursue philosophy generally.  I am writing this to share the experience I have had of it, and conclusions that I have come to.  Perhaps they can be worth while to those who may face the same difficulties, and have not yet clarified them for themselves.  Perhaps there are those who can help me make the next move through suggesting another layer of the dialectic.

   As someone who considers himself a fellow worker of Kant, I engage in pure philosophy as a pursuit worthy of special development.  This continual engagement in life leads me to constantly be directed out of life towards the clarifying of its form, its possibility, its a priori ground.  Once I had grown accustomed to this procedure, and found the great sense of clarity, command, and peacefulness that it brings (and which accompanies any activity where we find confidence in our powers) the tendency to bring things into their clarity took over in a manner that led to a continual tendency to retreat from life; this is a tendency with which I struggle constantly.
   I do not regret, but feel greatly rewarded by my work as a transcendental philosopher.  When I see others faced with complex problems of life, I see a tendency in them to defer to someone  else, or find something to help them forget, or make light of the issue; sometimes the result is that they lash out blindly.  When I am faced with a problem I have a tendency to enter into a critical analysis.  Here, the anxiety is lessened, and I find myself in control; I carefully evaluate the concern into principles and secure my stability and orientation to the problem.  Since every problem has a form, there is no problem which I cannot evaluate and bring under my power.  This I count as a great blessing.  However, merely attaining to stability does not solve the problems analyzed; nothing gets done with regard to the problems so far as I merely analyze them into principles.
   There are disciplines which work much closer to problem domains faced in life, and pure philosophy has its place in relation to all of them, but not directly in relation to their solutions.  This can make me appear useless (and at times feel useless), so far as the solutions to problems always are legitimately accredited to something else.  This means that for me to contribute to solutions, I must also develop skill and understanding in a narrow domain or I must present a legitimate claim to provide assistance in relation to problems.  These options do not exclude each other, but there are reasons why the first option is more difficult for me.
   The legitimacy of transcendental philosophy in relation to all problem domains is in the removal of confusion surrounding the problems.  Any removal of errors, misunderstanding, or confusion, even if it is only a negative contribution, is in the end a positive contribution towards the goal of resolving the problem.  This is how transcendental philosophy's merely negative relation of analysis is ultimately productive for all disciplines.  However, I find that having the tendencies of a transcendental philosopher makes it difficult for me to commit myself to one problem among others, since I can just as well be clarifying the principles that underly natural science at one moment, and in the next transition seamlessly into the principles that ground civil law.
   So far as I am unable to put all of the special problems under one super-problem, I am faced with anxiety as a transcendental philosopher.  I feel that I possess a key to all problems, but the problems, considered by themselves, are indeterminate in relation to their ultimate contribution - the problems themselves do not dictate which comes first.  The demand for the super-problem is itself a problem I face, and is open to analysis; this analysis results in clarifying an ideal that governs all activity.  This ideal has been called many things: virtue, God (as a theoretical ideal and regulative principle), the Good (ἀγαθὸν), universal objective harmony, &c.
   Just as the analysis of more special problem domains did not lead to a solution to the problems, the analysis of the super-problem also does not lead to a solution.  However, this analysis of the super-problem does remove a road block by putting all problems into dialogue with a universal interest that guides all of them, and so a common standard for evaluating them (see post on objective harmony or the Good for more clarification).  However, this merely makes the specific problems comparable in their intended results, and does not solve a single one, nor does it remove the demand to complete even the most minor of them.  It simply allows us to evaluate where we should more properly start, and sets this evaluation as a positive task.
  Ultimately the goal of philosophy (not simply transcendental philosophy) is not to remove oneself from life, but to live life well.  This goal requires transcendental philosophy, but does not allow it to be the final end, only a stage one must pass through on the way back to life.
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