Magister Ludi (7/29/14)

I wonder to what extent my enjoyment of thinking is not, at bottom, a thinly-disguised craving for mental drama. It is this dramatic clash or creative conflict between philosophical or theoretical perspectives that I find so irresistibly captivating about speculative thought. Simply to grasp Spinoza’s or Bacon’s or Schopenhauer’s basic philosophical aims and orientation (or worldview) is of rather less interest to me than to watch these philosophers ‘duke it out’ in the ring—or better still, having a philosopher duke it out with a poet or a saint: Nietzsche contra Wagner and Plato, Plato thrashes Homer, Machiavelli pummels St. Paul! These interdisciplinary battles are especially fascinating to me. These are clashes of titans and their battlefield becomes the interior of my soul—which grows and deepens and gains subtlety in the smoking aftermath of each subsequent pitched battle.

There is a considerable amount of legwork involved, of course. Each one of the assembled combatants must be carefully tended to before they are ‘set loose’ upon each other. This entails a good deal of study, writing, and reflection on my part—the accumulation and assimilation of knowledge and organizing insights. These will be put to the ultimate test within the battlefield of my mind. These various philosophical, religious, mythical, and ethical perspectives are naturally competitive and hegemonic. The rivaling mental standpoints and value systems do not require must assistance or prompting from me in order to fight. As they are naturally disposed to seek sovereignty over all possible rivals, I need merely bring them together like the host and sponsor of a Balinese cockfight.

Does this confession of the ‘game-like’ character of my love for mental drama cheapen or vulgarize my quest for knowledge and philosophical insight—by linking this quest to a form of ‘sporting activity’? Perhaps my confession helps to remove any falsely arrogated grandeur or pomposity from an old and venerable enterprise whose ‘key players’ have seldom been renowned for the modesty of their aims and ambitions. Au contraire! All too frequently we encounter excessive pride and an exaggerated sense of self-importance in the Magister Ludi.


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