An observation from today’s writing (delving into aspects of self, self-interest, self-expression, and similar abstractions):
Most of the task of conveying meaning in philosophy can be accomplished by pruning back insignificant things we habitually take as meaningful and hold forth as though we have found something important.
For example: the renaming or restatement of abstractions as though impressive new things have been realized, discovered, or created by words—and then, by the reactions we have to our “new” categories or images, which ideas now enjoy an attributed essential meaning of their own.
Like the stamping of a name on an object’s surface, the object may not change much, but we do notice the impression and sometimes to the exclusion of the rest. The impression of an idea itself “becomes” an object, because it takes on a real set of physiological experiences which are appreciable to us as mental phenomena. These phenomena are like a sort of secondary, epiphenomenal ripple or echo from what we were trying to talk about in the first place!
The philosopher’s pruning of this sort of distraction involves a process of retraining his/our perspective and expectation of substance from superficial verbiage (or the impressions it makes) to what makes reference to phenomena with more original sensory evidence (not excluding internal and subjective evidence, but not epiphenomenal ripples or echoes, either).
In the process of retraining, the philosopher must repeatedly ask himself, “are we really talking about what we think we are, or are we talking about feelings about previous talking?” (This isn’t helped by inheriting quite a bit of talking, some of which has acquired some deep impressions over time.)
Once we do find the phenomena we actually want to talk about in the whole mess, we have a chance to utilize a more phenomenal vocabulary in talking about it; in our talking about the subject, we can recognize experiences we have already had, including immediate and visceral sense experiences. We can therefore relate it to things that fall within our experience (or at least constructions building upon these foundations) instead of interacting with removed abstractions that transform nothing, and primarily reference themselves. We can experience a transformation, a reconnection to our experiences that will inform future encounters with relatable things.
It is the task of responsible philosophers—those who want to achieve something meaningful—to look at our looking-for-meaning (a resounding internal phenomenon) and point out, “no, that bit is make-believe, and that is saying nothing or very little, and it is leading us astray from finding what we are looking for,” far more often than they get to point and say, “Eureka!”
NB: if the reader has made it this far, he or she should observe that—barring a good deal of relatable experience with the challenges of conveying ideas when writing philosophy and/or readings in phenomenology—his difficulty with understanding the above will probably have been considerable. Furthermore, only my turns of phrase that emphasized sensory analogies and departed from abstraction will have been relatively easy to read, and made my meaning easier to comprehend at that moment. This illustrates the power of phenomenally-grounded philosophical writing, and the reader’s relative disappointment at having to slog through the more abstract sort, in which it is extremely easy to get lost.