Tag Archives: philosophy

Video Journal Episode 2

Video journal by underground philosopher Colin Patrick Barth on the art of writing original philosophy (in the Nietzschean tradition), with insights into the creative process of writing a 3-volume work of literature, “The Constellation of Man.” Recorded August 11, 2017.

Included in this second episode:

  1. The big news that some excerpts are now online at my blog, Wisdom Dancer.
  2. the importance of failure along the way, or
  3. Why This Second Episode Took So Long.
  4. (Not) getting comfortable with failure in ambitious creative work, in which failure is quite natural.
  5. Lateral, associative thoughts versus too much deliberate planning, or methodology.
  6. Most written philosophy is boring.
  7. How I’m trying to let resonant images organize material according to a different intuition, which is counterintuitive to a systematic writer.
  8. … the occasional pause, and a bit of inarticulate meandering. Brought to you by sleep deprivation (also natural).
Video

Video Journal, Episode 1

Video journal by underground philosopher Colin Patrick Barth for updates on recent writing and insight into the creative process. Recorded January 10, 2016.

Included in this first episode: a little too underground; giving a name to my current project; uses of metaphor and archetypes; thinking differently about philosophy.

On not fitting in a nutshell

Well, it has been quite some time since my last appearance on this blog, hasn’t it? All I can offer at the moment is a brief reflection. I’m trying to focus on substantial books as much as possible, and much less on talking online about doing that work, or offering interesting asides. There is not enough time and energy for everything a person could do, and my books demand protracted focus—sometimes more than I can manage. My publishing intentions have also been obliged to move from screen to paper over recent years. Sorry, internet!

There are a number of disadvantages to not having a short phrase or word that adequately communicates what I do, and secondarily what I write. I’ve long thought about the baggage associated with the word “philosophy,” which I’ve never been able to correct satisfactorily by supplying various modifiers like “underground” or “humanist.” To illustrate just one sort of baggage surrounding the word, imagine if “musician” generally meant “musical theorist.”

I have sometimes wondered if I should prefer “psychology.” My ancestor-in-spirit Nietzsche, and many psychologists who followed him, asserted that philosophical problems (including social thought) were fundamentally psychological in nature and fresh progress depended on psychological insights, models, and understanding, sometimes down to the physiological body, or the unique and specific person. As my books in progress have reflected consciousness of that even more, it looms larger. But if I were to say that I write “psychology,” I would inherit another set of baggage and misunderstanding instead. If I were to say something like “psychological philosophy,” I don’t think anyone would understand that either, and they would probably file it under “pretentiously long phrase” and not bother to decode it.

I like the term “naturalist” as well; in a number of ways it fits my attitude towards psychology/philosophy—e.g. emphases on observation, evolution, physicality, complex systems, epoché, etc.—though I’m not really sure what to do with that angle. Combine it with “humanism” —another possible angle, but another one fraught with baggage—and you could get “human naturalist” or the like.

As usual, I still have no conclusion I’m happy with, and I really don’t know what to say to people who ask what I do without going into it. Usually I mention that I wrote a novel, because I did, and they think they can relate to the normalcy of that to an extent. (Little do they know how foreign that process was from normalcy.) If I say the novel was “philosophical” though, it will usually become obvious that saying so did not help them to know what I mean.

Maybe I should just begin mischievously experimenting on people by saying things like “I write books of secret knowledge.”

No post-normal career-promoting verbosity here

The problem with writing truth-based philosophy is how very often I find myself obliged to write about how much, and in what ways words—words about things, words to form ideas—don’t matter, at least not remotely as much as people think. There are perhaps far fewer ways they do matter. There are select ways to make words matter, and those all depend on carrying through, and doing things other than words.

If I were a better liar, like Plato, I could make a more grandiose place for my chosen profession. If I could dissimulate, like an academic… well, you know.

Err… philosophy—it’s the best hope we have? Yes, that’s pretty much the size of it. We resort to words for a reason, and the fundamentals cause all manner of havoc if they aren’t resolved. But an unassuming defense of words talking about ideas also explains the desire to obfuscate more than a few matters in order to play the great and powerful Professor Oz (with tenure).

There is a reason why Nietzsche inducted art into philosophy along with science; of this we are more able to become proud, and find a place for an inspiring, grand and humanistic Philosophy again. Splitting the same hairs since Plato should hardly crown a philosopher-king, should it?

A reminder for serious thinkers, artists, and philosophers.

One of the greatest tasks of an intellectual creator and realist, especially one who aspires to “the highest rank” (Nietzsche), is to ignore the inanity circulated around him as though it were the lifeblood of the age, and write instead for an entirely different age, and the kind of person he hardly finds around him.

To do this, he must ignore the temptations to feel relevant, and to have others pay attention to him, and to be rewarded as others are. That would require a Devil’s bargain, to forego and foreswear important work for the nonsenses others call important.

He must even refuse to argue against triviality and stupidity on the same debating grounds on which issues of triviality and stupidity are habitually debated, lest these debates take all his time and vigor. He must yield the battlefield of politics and social mores to the unserious, so that he can be serious.

He has a Renaissance to design.

Image

Current desktop workspace, January 3 2013

Screen shot 2013-01-03 at 12.22.27 AM

Snapshot of the work that kept me busy during 2012, and will continue during 2013. It won’t all fit on the screen at once, unfortunately. (It’s difficult keeping it all in mind at once, as well.)

For that reason, it probably comes across as cryptic, especially as the file names are (mostly) not titles and I can’t show the files themselves yet. Forgive the indulgence in commemorating what I (will) have to show for the past year, but I think it’s interesting to consider how different thinkers and writers work and I’m contributing a little bit to that sort of insight here.

Just want to add: probably the most interesting thing in terms of the organization you see in the picture is how much I learned about not only organization of writing, but organization of thoughts from the experience of writing an extensive and complex novel that required different ways of working. I can’t recommend a better sort of practice. It’s really too bad most academic philosophers seem to think exercises in writing well have little to do with thinking.

A fallowing time…

Here is an update for those who follow my work, and possibly wonder what I’ve been up to since I finished my novel manuscript, especially if they haven’t read my posts from earlier this year under the category of Philosophy.

In terms of writing, this autumn has been less productive than I tend to expect from my favorite season. So for me, November is all about getting back on track with the dual books of philosophy which were my focus for the first half of 2012 (and sporadically in 2010–2011).

Call them Gnosis and Praxeology for those who are familiar with those terms, and because I’m not going to go into their actual titles, back stories, or present aims right now. I will offer more information in time, and actually, I already have in previous posts you can find from the category link above.

In short, these two interconnected projects comprise by far the most ambitious attempt at a synthesis of thought & magnum opus I have made so far. I already know they will not be finished this year, but I think a reasonable goal is to have decided on the organization and division of their material into parts by the year’s end, and to have as much filled out as possible.

The organization of Gnosis is mostly finalized, which goes to show that one is far along. The precise organization of Praxeology remains a bit more up in the air, although the amount of quality material for it hasn’t lagged too far behind.

I am able to draw on notes and previous work collected over fifteen years, so there’s no shortage of material. The challenge is raising the standard in every way, and bringing disparate material together elegantly.

“How Sausage is Made” and Inquiry into Human Nature

My philosophical investigations, research, and writing in recent years have increasingly reflected an interest in reconsidering “human nature.”

It occurred to me today that the attitude of most people to the subject reminds me of that old saying about “how sausage is made.” Bismarck supposedly compared this to politics, although it probably wasn’t really him who said that the less you know about how laws and sausages are made, the better.

Many people have a similar attitude about this infamous thing called human nature. They have very little interest in examining the considerable and fascinating anthropology and psychology available to them. The less they look into it, the better, they seem to feel. However, they do refer to it frequently, and rely on it constantly, inasmuch as we are all human.

When they refer to unexamined “human nature,” it’s almost always negative. They assume (as people once did about sausages) that what went into it was not very good. There’s a vague assumption that the naughty, nasty bits went in there, a suspicion of Original Sin.

But of course this is based on things like “anecdotal evidence” from personal experience, or picked historical events from the violent, cynical, populous and technological 20th century, which can’t be taken as representative of human nature. Aspects of human nature emerged over hundreds of thousands of years in the Paleolithic, during the evolution of species and subspecies in the genus Homo. (Not to mention millions of years of pre-Homo primates, and mammals.) They aren’t historical developments, and they aren’t something that will necessarily be obvious to someone whose mind they compose. From the inside, we’re a bit too close to this subject to trust our notions, in other words, and our perspectives are more than a bit skewed by the subjective and the recent.

And of course, it’s not true that you’re better off if you don’t know what goes on in politics, even though politicians would prefer it that way. You do want to know, because you will have to deal with it, regardless. The same is true of human nature. Even more so because whatever human nature really is, it’s actually impossible to escape, unlike the consequences of dirty, corrupt politics—which are only very difficult to escape.

We ought to want to know precisely what our nature is. We’re forced to adapt utopian visions of society to it, or fail. It both limits what we personally can do, and facilitates it. We suffer the consequences if we contradict it. We’re forced to work with it regardless of our ignorance, and it’s an impossible job if we’re plagued by misconceptions. And it’s also just possible that our true nature isn’t quite what we’ve been led to believe by so much of the culture on top of it. That would be a wonderful discovery for people to make.