I purchased my tickets to Argentina for the winter and it is an inexpressibly good feeling. These Lost Months of mine— provisionally entitled episode five, The Empire Strikes Back— have been brightened only by the sputtering appearance of various juntos, salons, and discussion groups throughout Philadelphia. Ramsey began one online, as a forum for “professional philosophers only,” but it quickly veered into live discussion, mainly centering on Nate’s antagonism to science. Ben Rensen, and a fellow named Brian, started a classically Franklinian Junto above Girard. And Maycock has transformed Math Squad into a class on programming. Just enough to last me until January 25th; Buenos Aires.
I’m an easily excitable person, but when conversation turns philosophical— when ideas are up for exchange and debate— my enthusiasm takes on a razored, obsessive character. Most everday conversations really just are chatter; to the degree that philosophy is usually sequestered to, and synonymous with, inner dialogue. Something akin to W.E.B. Dubois’ cloven Negro consciousness. Speaking and thinking and acting in two registers.
When this changes, I feel noticeably whole and unschizophrenic again. Integrated.
After our first discussion at Ramsey’s house— where I tried to persuade Nate of the distinction between science and scientism (or scientific foundationalism)— everybody was like “I think this is a good stopping point.”
“Stopping?” I thought.
I wanted to get Nate alone. I called him up the next night.
“Nate, so what are you up to? You wanna go out? Maybe get some coffee or a bite to eat?”
“Actually, I think I might head home. Get some sleep. How about tomorrow?”
“Uh, sure. I guess that’s good.” …Ouch. Shot down.
The next night, Nate had an opening downtown on Walnut. I restrained my passions in public. Mentioning a few philosophical items, but letting it slide to the casualness of the evening. At a party at the Baltimore girls’ house, I phoned Nate again, just wanting to talk..
He said he was coming over. But he was drunk when he arrived. Was he too drunk for philosophy? Maybe I could slip some caffeine in his drinks. I made my move, exploiting an opening on the couch., and had my way.
And let me tell you: it was fabulous.
The conversation didn’t have the petty, tit-for-tat argumentation of a debating society, but real dynamic flow, from topic to topic in the way that a Montagne essay progresses; the way thoughts lead to adjacent thoughts. Nate was working out his philosophical pessimism; and I was working out my philosophical optimism. Jaspers called this kind of dialectic “the loving struggle,” where explication and self-formation happen simultaneously; where the dialogical character of reason and self-creation become evident.
I want to replace all conversation with the conversation-of-ideas. So that every word out of my mouth works toward some supreme philosophical service. Ultimately, I want the juntos and salons and discussion groups to dissolve. The best pedagogical environment for me has always been the mall. I always thought it was comparable to the peripatetics of the Lyceum. Buy some soda at the food court, maybe some curly fries, then circle the mall lost in ideas. But I don’t believe that there is such thing as a pedagogical or philosophical environment. And I really want to exploit this.
Likewise, there is no such thing as a philosophical topic. Philosophical dialogue is just a particularly vigorous and broad-minded way of talking. Christmas is this week’s topic, for example.
Interested parties should write me. I can give times and locations; at least until my departure on the 25th of January.
Also, since I originally started the Jupiter blog as a public notebook rather than as the bulletin it has become, I’m going to start jotting occasionally incomprehensible notes in the comments, for my future personal reference. Organization.