How then are we to understand Revelation in its relation to thought? Belief in Revelation is belief that ‘God has spoken’. What does this mean? Or rather, what is it to believe it, if to believe involves something more than assent to a factual proposition? Just as to apprehend God’s Holiness is to repent (‘Now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes’); so belief in a divine Revelation seems to involve something like a repentance in the sphere of the intellect. Certainly it cannot be meant that we, with an unbroken intellect, are somehow privileged to talk about God. Talking about God is one of the things which the Bible hardly permits us to do. When Zechariah says, ‘Be silent all flesh before the Lord’, this is not wholly different from Wittgenstein’s ‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent’. What Wittgenstein seems not to believe is that God has spoken. But what is it to believe this? –Mystery and Philosophy
…I am convinced that I can be creative as a philosopher only for so long as my experience still contains unexploited and unchartered zones. And this explains at last what I said earlier on about experience being like a promised land: it has to become, as it were, its own beyond, inasmuch as it has to transmute itself and make its own conquest. After all, the error of empiricism consists only in ignoring the part of invention and even of creative initiative involved in any genuine experience. It might also be said that its error is to take experience for granted and to ignore its mystery; whereas what is amazing and miraculous is that there should be experience at all. Does not the deepening of metaphysical knowledge consist essentially in the steps whereby experience, instead of evolving technics, turns inward towards the realization of itself?
Those who have been following the blog will recognize this as a both recapitulation and variation on earlier bits and pieces. It is from the essay I am working on.
[A thought connected to the paper I am working on today.]
Consider the interlocutory voices in PI. How am I, the reader, supposed to relate to them?
My surmise: I have to find my way to hearing all the voices as mine. I ought not simply choose one and denominate it my champion, or denominate it me. No, I must come to hear the voices as giving voice to different modulations of my existence; I find myself in each voice. To achieve this is to achieve a regrouping of my own mind. The best single term I know to use here is Gabriel Marcel’s: ingatheredness. I find my way to ingatheredness–and the ingatheredness is not achieved apart from the philosophical problems that confront the voices; rather the philosophical problems that confront the voices are themselves factors in the ingathering; they must play a role in my self-recollection because they play(ed) a role in my self-forgetfulness. (Finding myself in all the voices helps to make that clear.)
“But this means that the whole of PI is devoted to putting me back together? To finding in myself all these temptations, these corrections, these murks, these clarities?” –Yes. “So what do I take away from PI?” –Yourself. “I started with that.” –Did you?
To travel the length of PI, really to find yourself in all its voices, to achieve ingatheredness, is to have undergone ‘a change without change’. Marcel:
…[W]e must suppose that we are here in the presence of an act of inner creativity or transmutation, but also that this creative or transmuting act, though a paradox…also has the character of being a return–only a return in which what is given after the return is not identical with what was given before…The best analogy for this process of self-discovery which, though it is genuinely discovery, does also genuinely create something new, is the development of a musical composition; even if such a composition apparently ends with the very same phrases that it started with, they are not longer felt as being the same–they are, as it were, coloured by all the vicissitudes they have gone through and by which their final recapture, in their first form, has been accompanied.
[Footnote: N.B. the relationship between PI 1 and PI 693.]
I win and lose, win and lose ingatheredness: but this isn’t to toggle between the same two conditions again and again, but rather is the local shape of a globally ‘upward’, winning movement. And over and over, PI helps.
A really alive person is not merely someone who has a taste for life, but somebody who spreads that taste, showering it, as it were, around him; and a person who is really alive in this way has, quite apart from any tangible achievements of his, something essentially creative about him…
Can a philosophy be grounded on the considered experience of its author? –So grounded, we could understand it as open to analysis and to disagreement, but not as straightforwardly vulnerable to argument based on general principle. I ask because it strikes me that many of the philosophies I care most about can be understood as grounded in this way, as grounded in their author’s considered experience. Montaigne’s, of course; but Cavell’s too, of course. Many philosophers who turn in the direction of ‘empiricism’, ‘experience’–can I think be best understood as appealing to his or her own considered experience. They are not best understood as appealing to experience (full stop), are not worried about (or much worried about) theorizing the rational or a-rational bearing of experience (full stop) on belief or knowledge. They are neither rationalists nor empiricists, although stretches of their philosophical terms, constructive or critical, sound empiricistic.
A give-away for the sort of philosophy with which I am concerned is a moment at which the philosopher talks of experience as something to which we can be loyal, something to which we can rally, something that can obligate us, something that can be educated. Another give-away is talk about experience as accumulating, as having weight.
My post on combative clarity (immediately below) was in part, and roundaboutly, a reaction to a point made in the closing sections of Marcel’s Introduction to The Mystery of Being. He summarizes the point so: Philosophical research is “research wherein the link with the result cannot be broken without loss of all reality to the result.”
I want to attend again to that Introduction. It ends in a way particularly appropriate to the Nativity season. Marcel mentions the notion of good will found in the Gospels, and goes on:
It would be folly to seek to disguise the fact that in our own day the notion of ‘the man of good will’ has lost much of its old richness of content, one might even say of its old harmonic reverberations. But there is not any notion that is more in need of reinstatement in our modern world. Let the Gospel formula mean “Peace to men of good will” or “Peace through men of good will,” as one might be often tempted to think it did, in either case it affirms the existence of a necessary connection between good will and peace, and that necessary connection cannot be too much underlined. Perhaps it is only in peace or, what amounts to the same thing, in conditions which permit peace to be assured, that it is possible to find that content in the will which allows us to describe it as specifically a good will. ’Content’, however, is not quite the word I want here. I think rather that the goodness is a matter of a certain way of asserting the will, and on the other hand everything leads us to believe that a will which, in asserting itself, contributes towards war, whether war in men’s hearts or what we would call ‘real war’, must be regarded as intrinsically evil. We can speak then of men of good will or peacemakers, indifferently.
A philosophy of peace, a weapon of peace–that is Marcel’s thinking. Marcel writes philosophy so as to seek peace and ensue it. –There are less noble motives.
Does philosophy have results? –As I practice it (ahem!), I guess not. Or at least it has no results that are not internal to philosophical investigation itself. I am Wittgensteinian enough, or Kierkegaardian enough, or Marcelian enough to believe that what philosophy aims for is clarity. But one is always becoming clear; one is never finally clear.
Clarity. Clarity is internal to philosophical investigation: it is not a separable result, isolable from the activity that realizes it and such that it confers value onto the activity because of a value it has independent of that activity. If a result is separable, isolable and independent, then it has a career cut off in an important way from the process that realized it. Indeed, in one sense its history only begins after the process that realizes it is finished. The result can be seized and put to purposes quite different from anything that those involved in the process of realizing it intended or foresaw.
But clarity is valuable because of the process of philosophical investigation that realizes it. And there is no clarity in isolation from the philosophical investigation that realizes it. Philosophical investigation does not realize a clarity that someone could hope to enjoy who is no longer involved in philosophical investigation. (“I got clear, you see; and now I am enjoying my clarity, although, thank God!, I am no longer involved in the travails of philosophical investigation.”) –Kierkegaard’s Climacus talks about the true Christian, the subjective Christian, as “combatively certain” of Christianity, as certain in a way that requires that the certainty be daily won anew. ”Eternal certainty” (his contrast-term) is not something that the subjective Christian can enjoy on this side of the blue. Similarly, the clarity realized by philosophical investigation is combative clarity, not eternal clarity.
It was once fashionable to charge that clarity is not enough. Someone (Austin, I believe) rejoined that we could decide whether clarity was enough once we’d gotten clear about something. I worry that both the charge and the rejoinder treat clarity too much as if it were a separable result.
Sufficient unto the day is the clarity thereof, I reckon–the combative clarity thereof.