Education and Inspiration of the Philosopher (2/17/16)

If we attend to the two principal factors involved in genuine philosophical writing – the education (knowledge base) and inspiration of the writer – it is quite natural to regard the former as feminine and the latter is masculine (after the example of yin and yang or negatively and positively charged particles). To sophisticate this scheme a little bit, we can use the analogy of producing a photographic print in a darkroom that is equipped with all the chemical baths required for developing negatives and positive prints. If, in our analogy, the source-images that wind up on the finished prints stand for the inspiring ideas that orient and animate our philosophical thinking and writing, we can more easily grasp the proper role of education (formal or otherwise) in the overall process. Just as the concentration and freshness of the chemical solutions in the developing trays, the quality of the film stock and the print paper, greatly decide the degree of faithfulness to the source-image that is being reproduced, the depth, breadth, and texture of the philosopher’s education will decide, to a great extent, how accurately, comprehensively, and subtly he will be able to formulate and embody his seminal intuitions and insights.

If, while the photographer is working in the darkroom, someone opens the door and allows light to pour into the room, the whole development process can quickly be spoiled. Similarly, the philosophical thinker may require regular periods of retreat from the busyness, chatter, and mundane activities of everyday experience in order for ‘time-lapse’ photo-images to register properly. Only under these undisturbed solitary conditions does the marriage between the higher plane of inspiration and the womb-like, educated imagination become properly consummated, cemented, and fully trustworthy. Once such a marriage is established, there may be occasional rows and spats, but seldom a divorce.

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