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Posting 138, word count: 560.

In the year 1277 the Bishop of Paris published a condemnation of 219 propositions being taught in philosophy classes at the University of Paris faculty of arts. In that condemnation the arts masters “are specifically proscribed from asserting “that there is no more excellent state than the study of philosophy”…” *. Apparently the Bishop and his intelligence analysts recognized this proposition as an existential threat.

It may not appear so at first glance, but the proposition “that there is no more excellent state than the study of philosophy” was and is incendiary for mainstream ideology. It denies the primacy of property possession, for example, along with the validity of the rights, trophies, and glamour of the strongest. It also asserts the underdog side in an ancient quarrel that was crucial for any Christian Bishop.

From ancient times there has been an ongoing quarrel over transcendence. On one side is the idea of an external sovereign transcendence to be feared and placated, a cosmic teleological force who chooses local agents to impose the universal pattern of sovereign dominance and hierarchy. On the other side of this quarrel is the idea that the only real transcendence is in each and every individual’s teleological processes simply as such. A case can be made that the transition from religion to philosophy is the movement from the first to the second. The mental movement that is philosophical thinking reaches a eureka! of self-recognition as a thinking being, as ideality, with a very special sort of absolute self-sufficiency in thinking. Martin Luther is an example of someone with a clear sense of absolute autonomy as a thinking being (in spite of his belief that the specifics of divine predestination cannot be known). For philosophy to be possible it is necessary for an individual to evade the default enculturation of a personal value-identity assigned by an ambient hive mind, and the norms of social pragmatism based on trust of authority, a superego, sovereignty. The act of philosophical self-recognition is always an individual’s questioning, searching on a principle of relevance intrinsic to a sense of wonder. The philosophical answer is the questioning itself: self-recognition as the sort of being who questions spontaneously, a fountain of original ideality. The way of being of personality is fundamental because that way of being selects and shapes any possible experience.

Thinking, Waking, Self-Possession

Fichte asked: How can an act of thinking wake you from pragmatic getting along to the discovery of yourself as ideality, a creative subject rather than an object? ** A related question is this: Is there some specific thinking that can reliably bring a person to self-consciousness as creative teleological ideality, or is it always just luck or an accident?

Having to make an effort to think about thinking means that pre-philosophical thinking activity is often performed un-self-consciously. To think about thinking is to direct a certain unsatisfied curiosity at curiosity itself. It is to question both questioning and intuitions of what is relevant at a certain moment, and to consider the spiritual condition of readiness-to-recognize something new, how something is learned, to wonder about acts of changing the sensed framework of orientation by which effort is exerted teleologically in a chosen direction. It is to wonder at the teleological structure of the sense of the passing of time.


* The House of Wisdom: How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization, written by Jonathan Lyons, Published by Bloomsbury Press (2009), ISBN: 978-1596914599. (p. 195).

** Romanticism, A German Affair, written by Rudiger Safranski, translated from German by Robert E. Goodwin, published by Northwestern University Press (2014), ISBN 978-0-8101-2653-4. (p. 42).

Copyright © 2018 Sandy MacDonald.