Half-we perplexity

I have an irrational belief that drives my philosophical work.

The belief seems to be a way of coping with a kind of pain peculiar to me.

It is a pain associated with inability to communicate. If the pain is not different in kind, it is at least distinguished by its intensity and duration. Inability to communicate as always disturbed me way too much — to a degree and depth hard to convey or account for.

Some examples: prohibitions against discussing subjects I urgently need to address and resolve; imposition of methods or rules that deprive a subject of its proper forum (for example, debate displacing dialogue, or group dynamics overwhelming conversational flow, or etiquette prioritizing harmony, fairness or comfort over fruitfulness); conversational habits (interruptions, distractions, digressions, postponements) that prevent resolution of differences; outright refusal to listen, understand and entertain other perspectives, for ideological or practical reasons.

Until relatively recently , I saw it as another case of the universal human pain of not being heard, only amplified by the need to say too many unusual things. Too esoteric. Too much volume.

I no longer see it this way.

I seem to need to resolve philosophical issues — shared perplexities — with others, through dialogue. If that withness is obstructed, or if that dia- is severed, or if the other just refuses to engage — if the interpersonal resolution of the philosophical issue becomes impossible — I experience the thwarting of this resolution as some kind of existential crisis.

I now see it as a response to impediments to dialogical resolution of shared perplexities.

But not many people understand perplexities as I do. They interpret the anxiety of perplexity as mere stress, or fear, or offense — a response to something that one can and ought to avoid. And the feeling is viewed individualistically, a response of an organism to its social or physical environment. This conception of self and the self’s relationship to others and the world leaves no conceptual room for appeals — so a perplexity that I understand to be ours becomes mine alone, and the anxiety I understand to attend all perplexities becomes pain I inflict — and a reason to abandon me to my own psychological dysfunction.

I might describe what I’m left with to contend with alone a half-we perplexity.


My irrational belief is this: resolving the perplexity myself, and expressing that resolution perfectly will somehow heal the broken We. It never has and it never will.

But it does make me philosophically productive.

It is the philosopher’s stone that turns leaden pain into golden epiphanies.

Or is it the Midas touch that turns living humans beings into cold insights?

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