Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Philosophy and its Double



 "The delight I take in my thoughts is delight in my own strange life." Wittgenstein

In philosophising you are, whatever else you may be doing, drawing your own portrait, delighting in your own form of life unfolding and ‘expressing’ - extending, completing - itself. Philosophical activity is not only directed at its object but angled back into the soul of the philosopher - work on philosophy, Wittgenstein* suggests, is work on oneself.

There is no position round the back of life from where it can be viewed; there is, in the most seemingly neutral or austere perspective, a force of life enlarging and investigating itself.
The infection of thought by 'life' is not fatal. That is, thought is not usurped, discredited or debunked by its double, life. It's just that the Double is seldom the object of philosophy but is the proper object of literature. 

What is Beckett’s Unnameable, Alain Badiou implies, but the Cartesian Cogito made fiction. The 'I' cut off from all certainty, locked in its own dubiety; or kept alive by the actual or potential glance of Others ( a disembodied head in a shop window): what are the repurcussions of this terrible isolation within language, within the whole realm of affect. Let us detonate this scenario within the mind, the body and within language rather than simply in the realm of the concept. 

Literature takes philosophical positions or philosophical starting points, of course. And this is what leads to the attribution of philosophical intentions to literature (the “critique of Cartesian rationality” attributed to Beckett). But what literature is interested in is the dimension of affect that clings to such positions and (or) the repercussions of such positions within language.

* In the early Wittgenstein, by contrast, this 'life' dimension is perhaps absent. He aspires to a chaste and mathematical abstraction - a thinking that is just thought thinking by itself, following only the immanent laws of logic, indifferent to people and bodies. 

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