Hearing Voices in PI

[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.

8 responses

    • Usually the latter. I aim to have two or three essays going at once and to work on whatever one I can work on, sometimes shifting from one to another during the day. But lately I have been working against a deadline and so have been staring at the same essay for the last four weeks or so.

      I also usually work without much of a plan beyond a very general description of what I am writing (on). I then just write whatever occurs to me to write and keep at it until I feel played out, then I go back to see if there’s some subset of paragraphs or some rearrangement of all the paragraphs that might resemble an essay. Slowly, with luck, I eventually have a proto-essay that I can then begin to rework in earnest.

      Of course, a quick look at virtually anything I have written forces the downright conclusion that my method must be lacking. So take this as mere information, not advice.

  1. I don’t want to overstay my welcome or comment too frequently, but I want to throw this out there in case it needs correcting.

    So rather than thinking that one’s tangled up in Tractarian concepts — as if the object were to rid oneself of them — one ought to instead remodulate the concepts as one’s own.

    The first paragraph of PI 97 begins with a voice that’s like one’s inner Faust. Grasping for the absolute bottom of things. Dealing with Mephistopheles, with super-senses.

    And then the TLP reference rotates one — about the fixed point of [one’s] real need (PI 108). “A change without a change.” To ordinary language — where sense is already in perfect order (PI 98). So PI doesn’t try to kill off the voice of temptation; it redirects it. Ordinary language is the bottom. The pages of PI are like the burning rose petals that the angels drop on the demons to chase them away from Faust.

    Of course — relative to your post — that’s all superfluous. To mix metaphors: I just want to make sure I’m coloring within the lines…

  2. sisyphean traversal of the hermeneutic circle:

    1. read book.
    2. repeat 1 until i have some insight about a whole unit of the book.
    3. write out a reading of 2 until i get stuck by not knowing how to round out the reading to some terminal point connected with the unit of text, or the next most interpretatively logical unit.
    4. reread 3 until i have some insight about how to go on.
    4a. if so, go on if possible without rewriting, else,
    4b. if so, go on by rewriting 3 until it permits continuation or incorporation of the new insight, else,
    4c. if not, return to 1.

    1* (special meta-principle): when too stuck, change books and papers. when inspired, change books and papers.

    it’s an awesome method.

    i was reading ‘the avoidance of love’ recently and i was struck by the line on p. 312 about cavell’s claims that criticism will rest on calling its claims obvious and its discoveries the whole truth of a work (‘a provision of its total meaning’). the line is about familiar ways of taking these claims: ‘they take a claim to obviousness as a claim to certainty, and they take the claim to totality as a claim to exhaustiveness’. and i realized that the way i’ve been putting into practice the details of my interpretation-reading are posed to satisfy others (and myself) that i’ve done enough to dispel worries about exhaustiveness (i think by basically reasoning on some principles, collecting evidence, and such, which i think of as more active and deliberative) so that i can get a hearing for claims about totality, but that having become sensitive to the difference between good claims to totality and bad claims to it, the more receptive side of interpretation has become a lot more demanding.

  3. Kelly,
    Your description of the voices in the PI reminded me of Plato’s Symposium. Crazy dialogue! The question of what it is, what it takes, to be a united self–a soul–is closer to the surface in Plato: it is less a matter of interpretation there.

  4. I have a question regarding PI 132 – 133. So I understand that the problems philosophers solve are potentially endless. But is it fair to talk about a single root to all philosophical problems? I mean, if no philosophical problem can possibly arise from inside the Default (McDowell, 1994), then can’t one justifiably say that the sideways-on “view” — even as “something” unsayable but showable — is the root of all philosophical problems? Or maybe better: that every configuration of words/sentences “congruent” to the sideways-on “view” is the root of all philosophical problems? I mean, wouldn’t those configurations of words/sentences encompass every instance of language-as-an-engine-idling?

    And I’m aware that the above paragraph is not an instance of ordinary language. But I think it steers clear of “metaphysicism” (Long, 2010).

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