Fragments for a Prolegomena

The confusions caused by and made manifest in language must be dealt with at the physical level, at some point, if they are to be resolved. It is not simply by talking that philosophy is done. It is physical therapy as well, this philosophy I speak of. Language can be a cover that obscures the disparities between a man’s instincts (read: his biology, his genetics, etc) and the society in which he acts a part. Words (read: moralities) can often do much to lessen his feelings of inadequacy or angst or anger when the actions a society expects of him are in conflict with his instincts. He may use words to rationalize or justify himself and his place and course of action--even to justify the society itself, if he is a particularly thoughtful man. But the words are generalities. The words are concepts, placeholders for an area of meaning, they are poetry, and have none of the specificity of meaning the word appears to imply.

In contrast, the desires of his body are most specific. Only a man’s actions are meaningful. The history of man as he understands is a history of action. A man is as he acts. If he is lucky, the action encouraged by his instincts is consistent with the conduct expected of him from the world he lives in. If he is unlucky, his body urges him to action which disagrees to varying extents with the world. It is a source of conflict, either within himself if he chooses not to act, or, if he does choose to act, a conflict with the world around him. For such a man, the pursuit of pleasure and satisfaction can bring a painful response or punishment from those he lives among.

A man is lucky to live as an obedient animal, following urges that just so happen to coincide with the expectations of the society in which he was born. His is a life without conflict. He may pursue his pleasures and his happiness without worry of offending society. The generalities of language will not be a source of confusion for him. Language will appear as specific and meaningful as his actions and the group action of the society. His action will seem guided, life structured and predictable. He cannot imagine a life lived in any other way. And he will hate those in his society that try to live otherwise. He will speak out against them with his fellows who live and speak the language that he does. He will speak and act as the group. He becomes what is general. He is the many. He and the others are the same.

At the opposite extreme is the truly unlucky man who cannot control the urges of his body that are in conflict with the group. He is a misfit of society and in the most extreme cases an outlaw. He does not have a sense that he needs the group or requires it. He acts in accordance with his instincts without fear of the group or his own safety and thereby represents the greatest danger to the group. He does not care if his life is long or short, only that he follow his instincts.

But a less extreme case of unlucky men are those who feel acutely some conflict between themselves and their societies, yet are able to exercise the self-control necessary to avoid acting on their impulses. Some are even capable of critiquing both themselves and the group. They restrain themselves from action that might bring them into conflict with society, while also examining the action and language of other men. Some of these men have constructed elaborate personal philosophies to justify their conduct or that of the society; using language they cured themselves of the conflict and learned to live as the others, learned to become the same. Rationalizing one’s life with language is a sort of poetic deceit to make onself feel better. Some of these thoughtful, unlucky men were even able to change societies with their arguments and thus make a place for themselves.

If he is not a very unlucky a man, words will be enough to smooth over his conflicts. He will convince himself with generalities; words will be a poetic trick to make him feel better and calm his instincts, calm the desires of his body, calm him into not acting on the urges that inspire him. He may convince himself to work with others on their projects because that will bring him money, or some measure of power, or provide the security so that a particular girl will give herself to him. This unlucky man may rationalize that this life of quiet internal conflict is preferable to action that might jeopardize his place in a society.

His body may wish to run, to hunt, to ascend great mountains. Instead he will sit for most of the day, inside buildings of glass and steel, doing the work of the others, breathing air recycled and chilled by noisy machines. He does this for his safety. There is safety among the many--to act as the others act is the safest act. He will say this to himself: This is how I shall live longer, by living in this way. A man lives longer as a member of group than if he is alone. Even if I have some disagreement with this group I will remain a part. To live as long as possible is meaningful. The group will protect me and if we are attacked it is only the outer, weaker members who will perish. I will amass money and prestige to be among the inner circles of the group where it is safest and warmest and most protected.

It is easier to do philosophy with a pencil than with one’s body. Words do not offend the group as actions can, and words can be politely renounced. For the man for whom words are insufficient, he must change his life through the action of his body and not by talk. Some have left for mountaintops. Others stopped using language entirely. Others left for societies that were more amenable to their instincts. Even some others have chosen to end their lives.

There are many choices for this type of unlucky, but thoughtful, man. But he must choose a path of action. When the rationalizations of language (read: personal philosophies he may read, religions, philosophies he may write for himself, etc.) are insufficient he will have to physically act. He must quit the role he is performing within that society or leave the society altogether. He must find some new way of living to resolve the conflict between his body and his society. There is great work he must do. He must come first to an understanding of his body and what it desires. He must then come to understand those areas of conflict with the group. He will use language to do this. With language he will identify the troubles and with language he will begin to formulate a plan of action. It is messy work using language but his use of language will only be an means to an end, and that end is a particular action.

Man most fears losing the others. He needs others to speak with, to fuck, to be entertained by. He needs others to like him. He fears being disliked and outcast and alone. His body tells him it is dangerous to be alone. His body tells him that you die when you are alone and he fears all action that would put him into conflict with the others. He finally fears his own conflicted urges because they threaten to separate him from the group. So he polices himself. He is against himself. He speaks and acts in conflict with the instincts of his body. It is some part laziness and fear that he lives this way and he will live out his life conflicted and unhappy, working alongside men he finds contemptible, a marriage to a woman he is disgusted by, children he never understood he wanted, things and things in abundance, and the quiet, complicit face he presents to his different bosses. He may even express himself sincerely regarding his conflicts to some other men who feel as he does. This will be a tiny society of the conflicted and outcast--of men lacking the courage to act, lacking the will to change society, or the will to leave it.

They will feel some comfort from the small group they have made together. Lives of what they call a desperate quietism. They may have a few hours after work to express themselves with each other. They may be given a few weeks of vacation from the group which they use to explore what their body’s desire most. They are men who require great action to resolve their conflict, physical action, but they lack the will for it and are the unluckiest of the animals. These are men who die regretful, these most unfortunate of the unfortunates.


  1. The first act will be to pay people to take my things. Anything you want has a price I will pay you to take it from me. Anything I haven't used in the last 12 hours, how can it be said that I need that thing. And I haven't even worn clothes, really, in those 12 hours.

    Fuck time to go to work. Maybe I'll neglect to validate my light rail pass today. Yeah that would be pretty fun. Fuck it.

  2. Must go back to work too. Scary story. Makes me so so sad and must use street drugs.

  3. The reason this is good philosophy is that it attacks or addresses the safety or comfort zone of most every philosopher I can think of--especially those who have assumed academic positions. Marty might have you shot for such a polemic--Sartre would agree with you, but he was never a man anyway. Ludwig is perhaps your closest friend in these matters, and Kierkegaard your most distant. After reading this, my only defense is that I run and ride, but neither my running or riding is really an independent project. I go to races that are very much the main stream, where other middle class knowledge workers fight for the podium. How scared I apparently was of greatness at 22 that I ran so quickly to mediocrity.

  4. This is probably the only writing worth reading in many decades.

  5. I was conflicted this morning. The beast Rogue wanted to go for a walk, and I felt I should get my ass to work. I also had some shirts to take into the cleaners. I dug through those little shit-baggies and found a good one, and put her leash on her and began to take her for a walk, because she told me that she wanted to go for one. The woman came to the door after me, "wait" she said. We walked around the block and ran into her neighbor girl. The neighbor girl had a new giant ring on her finger, but it's not THAT new. The woman just hadn't seen it yet. Rogue the dog did not shit, and I learned the the woman is not interested in huge oversize rings with multitudes of diamonds. I dropped the clothes off to the cleaners and there were 10 shirts.

  6. "How scared I apparently was of greatness at 22 that I ran so quickly to mediocrity."

    What you were at 22 can be recovered. But with the addition that you now have intimate knowledge of the mediocrity to which you fled. One had to live it and get through it, to now enable you to critique it and overcome it. Because what cannot be encountered cannot be overcome.

  7. "55) The more that you achieve, the more there is you have yet to achieve. "


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