Philosophy and the Dead


Response to the Gwave Why is it that when we learn Philosophy we start with ancient texts?

My point is that you have to discern the cutting edge of the tradition and the only way to do that is to study the history of the tradition and then try to set off in a new direction. Deleuze is a good example of someone who really tried hard to do that. But if you read Badiou’s critique of Deleuze after his death you get the idea that the more radically you try to depart the danger is the more you actually merely stay within the same orbit. Thus there is this paradox that thinking is in some sense thinking the tradition anew. Anything that does not think the tradition anew does not find the cutting edge of the tradition, and thus does not find anything truly meaningful to say. Of course most philosophy fails to find the cutting edge of the discipline, and thus only serves to show us the difference between philosophies that open new vistas and those that don’t. The more I study the tradition the more I see that what the previous philosophers were talking about is way beyond what I could come up with myself. When I come up with something I think is new I look back and suddenly see that this is what they were saying all along, and then I have to rethink what I thought they were talking about which leads to new revelations, which in turn leads back to reinterpreting the tradition, and so it goes. Philosophy in my opinion is somehow a dialogue with the dead. And it is only in the depth of that dialogue that it is possible to bring life to thought. Thought that does not deal with the dead is itself dead. Or maybe if we take Zizek seriously remains un-dead. and thus does not touch either death nor life wholly. I think it is noble to think one can start afresh without referring to what has gone before, but I have always found that this is for me only the semblance of thinking, and avoids what is profound to the detriment of discovering what is new to be thought. Discovering what is new seems to me to be particularly dependent on what is the oldest and deepest assumptions that we don’t even know we have been making.

Posted May 16, 2010 by kentpalmer in Uncategorized

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