Philosophy / Action

Philosophy, practiced properly, will help certain men to discover how they should act. Though it will not necessarily be the same path of action for all such men. Philosophy, if it is to have any meaning at all, must be concerned with the question of how to live.

The man who understands unthinkingly, unquestionably how he should live--either by never wondering, or by having already discovered it--has no need for doing philosophy. Philosophy would only bore him or confuse him.

He who does philosophy must eventually stop doing it. It must lead to his living in the world in a new way. Philosophy is not itself a way. Philosophy without action is useless (e.g. the academic philosopher who does it professionally for money, or the hobbyist philosopher who does it part-time for kicks). Doing philosophy has nothing to do with using technical language to argue with other men and publish books and papers.

As a result of the philosophical work he has done he will act in the world in a new way: he may begin to express himself differently with language, to lose his friends or gain others, destroy certain habits, leave his job or his wife or his country, wear different clothing, disregard social norms or a particular law--he will act differently in the world. How he acts will distinguish him from other men.

Those who present the work of philosophy as “internal work” expose their cowardice. They cling to a Cartesian myth of inner and outer which while allowing them to live among other men with a minimum of conflict, denies them from achieving the self-satisfaction of action in the world. These cowards will die regretful, having denied their bodies, having been unwilling to act.

The idea of an inner world is a false one, a clever escape, a denial of the body. Just as there are no private languages, there are no “inner acts”. Man’s “inner life” is an expression of his retreat. The moments he calls “conscious moments,” where he feels himself distinct from the world “outside,” are moments of bewilderment. To build upon them something philosophical, to call these moments more “real” or “true” than the way he moves and speaks among other men, is to entertain a path of thinking that privileges inaction, and that will allow him to escape the willful, courageous task of expressing himself in the world.

The men with a need for doing philosophy are potentially great men. Philosophical work is the work of the few. It is the challenge of greatness that these men, to varying degrees, will feel in their need. This makes the cowardice and the regret of their failure to act all the greater. For these men have the opportunity to be something more than men before: to show other men a new way in the world.


On Progress

1. He tends to carry to an extreme an idea that has been shown to work, using it to solve other problems that plague him. What is called 'progress' is the sharpening of an idea. But a blade must be sharpened to the right angle for the work it is intended. Just as you cannot hack at wood with the fine blade of a butcher knife, there are ideas which when applied to other areas will be eventually blunted or broken.

1-2. The idea that there is some science to man is one such mis-application.

1-3. The idea that fails when wrongly applied risks being thrown out altogether when a new idea appears to address a problem (e.g. religion after the appearance of science).

1-4. An idea can be made too sharp for other uses.

2. Pieces of prior ideas and the orders they founded, exist today as shards, relics from other times. They should function as a silent reminder that this blade too will one day break. Yet man's investment in his latest idea is total and he will view it as the exception upon which an ultimate progress is possible.


Projects, Assignments & Systems

1. A project is a doing that is lead by you. An assignment is the helping of someone else with his project. You may have been assigned to his project, or you may have assigned yourself to his project. But he who has a project is doing something of his own--he is assigned to no one.

2. To say a system exists is to say that a person depends upon others for something. The extent to which his life is systematized is the extent to which he needs, or believes he needs, the others. His need of other men is a necessity when he is unable to survive on his own--he is domesticated.

3. When he has assigned himself to another's project it can be said that he has accepted his domestication. He shies away from initiating his own project. He lacks the courage for it.

4. Domestication is a lack. Domesticated man may lack the will to initiate his own project, or be too specialized in his knowledge to complete his project on his own. The specialized man will require others with the skills to do the things he cannot--he will not have an understanding of the whole.

5. That he lacks an understanding of the whole, that he is a specialist, or that he has no knowledge whatsoever, are consequences of his systematization. He is born into a world where men fulfill specialized functions for one another. He accepts that other men will do certain work for him, and that he will be assigned certain work for them. He accepts the need for other men. And the more he needs other men, the more he is domesticated by them, and they by him.

6. The great project will not have any others assigned to it, and its success or failure will have nothing to do with other men. The great project is outside the systems and beyond all domestication.


Frank 6

(Frank 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 )

After Frank told me about the coming race war he talked to me about fighting. Two guys could take on many, he said, if you and your friend fought back to back and you were both skilled. You had to get that first guy who came at you and beat the shit out of him. Frank demonstrated how he would beat the guy's face, he grabbed him by the hair and kneed him in the head, kneed him again and then Frank pounded on him some more. Even if the other guys are hitting you, Frank said, you need to make sure you destroy that first guy. Because then you can use that first guy as a shield. Frank was now pushing the destroyed guy left and right in front of him to keep the other attackers away. Then Frank would kick at the others, or punch at them, all the while using the destroyed guy as his shield. But you must stay back to back with your friend, Frank emphasized again.

He and Mike Pereira liked to get into fights whenever they could and Mike was a good fighter. One day they were driving and saw 5 kids and one of them flashed a knife. If a Filipino flashes a knife you are a dead man. But if a kid from Mt Prospect flashes a knife you take it away from him and you use it against him. So Mike says, you want to get them? Let's do it, Frank says. But Mike jumps out of the car without putting it in park and the car is starting to roll and Frank has either got to jump in with Mike or save the car. Frank runs back to the car and gets it in park but when he gets back Mike has been destroyed. Mike got the knife away but they leveled him. Oh yeah, said Frank sadly, Mike was wrecked. See, you got to stay back to back.


Doug 2 (supplemental)

When Doug was 28 an old woman approached him at the bar. She was 65 and she made him a proposition. If he would sleep with her she would buy him anything he wanted. At the time Doug was interested in a fish tank, so he asked the old woman if she would get it for him. The old woman lived alone in the suburbs in a big house with a swimming a pool. After Doug made love to her she said she wanted to see him again and if there was something else he wanted. There was a pool cue made of a special fiber that would last forever and Doug asked her for it. After the pool cue Doug slept with her a third time and, when he couldn't think of anything he wanted, the old woman gave him $100. This made Doug feel guilty and so the next time he asked for another fish tank. He hadn't been able to think of anything else. But he soon tired of the fish tanks. When Doug went to clean them the Lionfish he paid $80 for would sting him. Doug finally killed one for stinging him, and then he stopped cleaning the tanks. He met Heather and he stopped seeing the old woman. He sometimes thinks how his life might have turned out if he had stayed with her. Maybe he would have inherited the big house with the swimming pool. The two fish tanks are gone but he still has the pool cue in his closet.


Prolegomena Fragment: Work Left Undone

But now food, clothing and shelter are in abundance. He has worked diligently to construct a system (through exchange, specialization and communication) to make available and abundant both security and energy, but yet what does he do? He works to expand this system, to make more security and energy, and to reproduce them in new forms. He works ever harder to collect more of the things he already has. His original project of sustaining his own life is merely amplified. Man has the opportunity today for something more, something beyond the base elements of his survival, yet he does not try for it.

Multiple homes, huge wardrobes of clothing, whatever food he wants available to him whenever he desires it--none contribute significantly beyond what has been achieved already. He has simply restated the terms of his survival in more plentiful, more luxurious forms. He has not decided upon any end goal for the achievement of his survival. So he continues to collect more food, clothing and shelter. He is a collector. He never seems to have enough. Western man has become a storehouse of security, with the marginal utility of more security effectively zero.

Today he works ever harder for the latest repackaging of security that is sold to him. Men live in a spirit of competitive collection, each working to possess a better version of what is currently celebrated and promoted.

But after he has his food, clothing and shelter he should ask: “And how now should I live?”

Those who ask the question ask it too late. Man often asks himself how he should live when there are cracks in his system, in old age, or when his health is deteriorating. He does not question how he should act when he has both his physical capacities and the food, clothing and shelter to survive. Hence many men die regretful, with the feeling that there must have been something more to life, something else, some other work left undone.

He remains essentially a slacker, hoping to avoid work or survive with a minimum of it. He continues to despise work as if the energy expended posed a risk to his life--as it once did. Yet the hardest work is to be done after the threshold of food, clothing and shelter has been achieved. The work of greatness is possible then. The work of becoming something beyond the animal that has learned to survive best. It is the work that exists beyond economics and the systems he has constructed. It is the work for which there is no return. It is work that contributes nothing to his security. And it is dangerous work because it will isolate him from other men.

His instincts are those of the Pleistocene, though he lives in a time of abundance.

For 99% of his history man has struggled daily to survive. His desire for food, clothing and shelter is a central component in his genetic makeup, and, due to its overriding power, one difficult to fully satisfy. The work of greatness will be an overcoming of the genetics common to all men, as well as those specific varations he has inherited from his parents. He will need also to overcome the systems he was born into and the other men, both past and present, with whom he shares a culture. There is great work still undone.


On Projects

54. The great project will matter to men of today and men of yesterday. He cannot say if it will matter to future men and that does not matter. He might expect that his greatness today will matter to future men as the greatness of Sophocles or Napoleon has mattered to him. But then he does not attempt greatness for men of the future: Today’s greatness projects back through history.

57. Just as in his own time he may try to live different forms of life and to travel and examine much of his world, an attempt at greatness will allow him to live beyond his time alongside the greats of other eras. For that which is great will span time, and men will carry it along with them.

59. Today's greatness determines the greatness of the future. Today's greatness determines the greatness of the past.

67. When he is not at work on his greatness, let him do projects that develop his physical strength or his rigor. Let him do projects--for himself or for others--so that he may eat and have some shelter. But he should do nothing for money that does not contribute to his strength or to his rigor.

82. Making money beyond what he needs for his food and for his shelter should be an accident. It is not why a man works. Money cannot be the reason for a great project, and it is not itself a great project. The project of making money without end is a woman’s project. It is a project for collecting security and collecting things.

83. The great project is the great gift. It is beyond any economics or calculus. Take care to protect the great project from money.

84. It is in the midst of a deep uncertainty that a greatness is born.

85. An excess of security endangers what is great. When he need no longer worry for his body and what will happen tomorrow, he risks losing the greatness he may be working on. But his nature works against him, as a man would rather live with more security than with less, particularly as he grows older. He would rather feel insured than uninsured. He would rather not work than work. He would rather save his energy than expend it. These tendencies in his nature have helped to preserve him through much of human history. But today these tendencies are why he fattens easily, why he suffers from the autism.

89. The great project, preserved and protected, will have the result of sainthood.

102. Be suspicious of the great project that makes much money. Its greatness may only be an appearance.

105. Beware of the project that requires sitting. And beware also of talking.
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