‘Wisdom

I love words, and I love concepts. My house is stuffed with books, many of them purchased for the sake of a single perfect sentence.

But this love of articulate concept is set against what has not yet been conceived or articulated, and that, in turn, is set against what is forever inconceivable and ineffable.

Without this ineffable context, words and concepts could not matter to me.

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Behindness and beyondness bounds the mind on two sides.

The behindness is beneath the root of all our most primitive meanings — meanings that can only be shown (pointed-at indexical meanings, demonstrated ostensive meanings, and shared valuing, a kind of inter-subjective indexical meaning around which culture forms).

The beyondness is above the crown of our most ambitious ideas, notions which may be touched, sensed and recognized as real, while exceeding the mind’s comprehending grasp. What is touched but not grasped is the apprehensive inner surface of mystery.

The inconceivable, ineffable mystery simultaneously compels us with love and repels us with dread. It is the pulling-pushing musculature that moves the jointed bones of our structured thought.

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The ability to conceive and articulate within the bounds existing articulate conceptions is intelligence.

The awareness of beneathness under the root and beyondness above the crown of our articulate conceptions is wisdom.

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Wisdom is practical awareness of otherwise.

For us, things could be otherwise. Things might, even now, be otherwise for others. If I will allow it, and will invite it, things might soon be otherwise for me.

Metanoia bestows a gift of new givens.

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I enjoy imagining a missing apostrophe at the start of the word wisdom — that wisdom is a contraction of otherwisdom: ‘wisdom.

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‘Into your eyes I looked recently, O life! And into the unfathomable I then seemed to be sinking. But you pulled me out with a golden fishing rod; and you laughed mockingly when I called you unfathomable.

“Thus runs the speech of all fish,” you said; “what they do not fathom is unfathomable. But I am merely changeable and wild and a woman in every way, and not virtuous — even if you men call me profound, faithful, eternal, and mysterious. But you men always present us with your own virtues, O you virtuous men!”

Thus she laughed, the incredible one; but I never believe her and her laughter when she speaks ill of herself.

And when I talked in confidence with my wild wisdom she said to me in anger, “You will, you want, you love — that is the only reason why you praise life.” Then I almost answered wickedly and told the angry woman the truth; and there is no more wicked answer than telling one’s wisdom the truth.

For thus matters stand among the three of us: Deeply I love only life — and verily, most of all when I hate life. But that I am well disposed toward wisdom, and often too well, that is because she reminds me so much of life. She has her eyes, her laugh, and even her little golden fishing rod: is it my fault that the two look so similar?

And when life once asked me, “Who is this wisdom?” I answered fervently, “Oh yes, wisdom! One thirsts after her and is never satisfied; one looks through veils, one grabs through nets. Is she beautiful? How should I know? But even the oldest carps are baited with her. She is changeable and stubborn; often I have seen her bite her lip and comb her hair against the grain. Perhaps she is evil and false and a female in every way; but just when she speaks ill of herself she is most seductive.”

When I said this to life she laughed sarcastically and closed her eyes. “Of whom are you speaking?” she asked; “no doubt, of me. And even if you are right — should that be said to my face? But now speak of your wisdom too.”

Ah, and then you opened your eyes again, O beloved life. And again I seemed to myself to be sinking into the unfathomable.’

— Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, “First Dancing Song”

3 thoughts on “‘Wisdom

  1. Hi Stephen,

    Have you seen yet Floridi’s work through Information Theory of Philosophy as Conceptual Design? I’m a PhD student interested in the same questions as you – and his work was brilliantly mind bending.

    If you’d like to talk further I’ve added you on LinkedIn.

    1. I have a copy of the book, and have skimmed the beginning of it. I need to read the whole thing, and also finish Deleuze’s What is Philosophy? There definitely is a lot of overlap between those two books and what I hope to do, which is, roughly, norming out what a well-designed philosophy ought to do for a “user” and how to assess whether a philosophy ought to be preserved or reconceived.

      I’d like to hear about the work you are doing. I’ll warn you though, as a courtesy, before you decide whether or not you really want to converse with me, that I do have some obscure, fervent and heretical religious beliefs that drive my work, which some people (especially at the extremes of pro-religion and anti-religion attitude continuum) seem to experience as confused and contemptible. If that sounds awesome to you, we’ll probably get along fine, at least for a while.

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