Friday, March 1, 2013

Philosophizing Without Resistance

   There is a common assumption about philosophical discourse that our attention should be oriented toward detecting parts of an argument that can be confuted.  Philosophy is not concerned with right or wrong arguments, and when philosophical interactions are reduced to a game of counter examples they break down.  I propose that those who are philosophically inclined take up a practice of philosophizing without resistance.  Allow me to explain what I mean.
   When someone is expositing something you are struck as philosophical try to just accept it as something true that is yet misunderstood.  It is no matter if you think you understand what has been said, you can still understand it better; take yourself to not have understood it entirely, and attempt to draw out in discussion this lurking truth that may not yet be apparent from the exposition itself.  Don't resist any explanation given, but only seek to draw out the truth of it.  The results of this cannot guarantee any new doctrine will be revealed, or that whatever is developed is trivial, but it may contribute to something more important.
   I would be very surprised to find that anything someone says genuinely will be found to be entirely false (in fact, I think it is impossible).  Developing the element of truth, and even letting the rest of what may be misguided stand in the light of this truth, can be helpful for guiding both people towards something that both should desire - understanding.  Develop an actual relationship to someone else through such a pursuit of the same thing.  This human connection is much more important to practice in our philosophizing than any particular doctrine or argument.
   Now, while you are not putting up any resistance to your interlocutor, you may need to put up a great deal of resistance to yourself.  At first, this practice may be incredibly disorienting, and you may wonder what it is that you are to talk about without refutation.  Eventually you will find yourself laughing at this reaction.  It can be hard not to react to something that seems wrong, and so is offensive in some way, but we are too quick to make our discourses about what is wrong or offensive.  It would be preferable to have discussions that contribute to something positive, and develop what is right; even better than this is if we develop our discussions them in terms of forming a genuine common pursuit between each other and a mutual respect.

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