Note on Rigor, Style and Philosophy

Maximin has advanced the idea that there is something incomplete with the aphorisms and other writing here; that the proper level of rigor has not been shown and that maybe I am no longer doing or am interested in doing philosophy. Yes, there are many other aphorisms and writing that has not been posted--that perhaps clarify and connect to what is here--but I disagree that what is here is lacking in some way by their absence.

If by rigor we mean thorough, far-reaching explanation, then the aphoristic style itself is unrigorous. The rigor of the aphorism emerges from the reader--he must provide it. The writer of the aphorism can only hope to stimulate that rigor and to direct it through his presentation. If the aphorism resonates with the reader he will say: Yes, that is how it is. You have described it clearly. That is the best it can do. This resonance is rigor and it does not take the form of lengthy explanation. The rigor is what is present through absence--in the blank space surrounding the aphorism. (Ludwig and Fred are both misunderstood for this reason: their styles demand so much of the reader as to leave themselves open to the charge of not being philosophical.)

Because it gets back to this: the thought is an act. The aphorism is the closest in form to the thought itself. There is no system. The thought appears. It dangles on its own as an aphorism alongside other aphorisms. The reader may see a connection, or he may not. There may even be no connection apparent to the writer of the aphorism. Thoughts have this murky quality.

They are enigmatic as in a dream: we are troubled because we do not see how the thought fits in with the others. Yet it came to us and it did not come to any other. We feel we should know and understand because it is ours. And this desire to know and understand is when a thought gets mangled and the force of the act of its appearance is destroyed.

Through explanation we impose upon thoughts a form that disagrees with their content. We end up explaining them away with other words in an effort to be rigorous. The aphorism, however, best maintains the original form of the thought and the force with which it appeared. When expressed in its purity it does not require adding to. The thought as act stands alone.

My goal is to prepare myself through training to receive thoughts, good ones, and to arrange them in the way that best reveals their connection. The aphorism is the form.

And what of the training, Moraline? The training is physical. I must be a man of activity, with a strong body, and active as much as possible. The thoughts born of a frail and weak body caused by too much sitting are forced thoughts. The man who sits tries to think. He gets himself into quagmires of language too easily. Because he does not use his body he uses words, and he uses too many of them.

Philosophy should aspire to less words, not more. It should aspire finally to silence. The problems have gone. The problems have disappeared in the activity of life.

What appears as a philosophical problem can be made to disappear with a change of perspective. Ludwig has spoken of this and wrote a whole book full of such changes in perspective as they applied to specific language problems. But while he writes of a perspective change using language, why not a perspective change by changing the form of life itself? By acting in a new way? There were certain ideas I was once puzzled or troubled by, but by riding a bicycle in foreign lands these troubling ideas no longer make their appearance. (“Only riding alone can take it out of me.”)

People remain philosophically troubled because they lack the courage to change their form of life.

The short stories and poems and photographs are important too. It all can connect if you look at it long enough. It will resonate with you, or it will not. Your form of life may be incompatible with what I have created--these aphorisms and short stories and poems may not make any sense to you.

But maybe I’m just making excuses. Maybe I have no rigor and hide behind bad, incomplete writing, making some bizarre demand on the reader that he supply the rigor. That could be true. Maybe these thoughts really are incomplete. I don’t know. But that doesn’t matter because these thoughts are not finally for others. These aphorisms and writings are notes for myself as I attempt to change my behavior and act differently in the world. All of my writing is evidence of new paths being tried, sometimes hacking away slowly through the brush, and at other times going back to some way I had abandoned.

I am more concerned with the quality of my action than the quality of my writing.

1 comment:

  1. Indeed. There is also the risk of writing, though. The thought is never complete and perfect. This is the sense I get when i read Ludwig--that what he is saying is so simple and incomplete, but it is very brilliant and original. Similarly, this work you do is brilliant and original, but it spurs in me, at least, to ask further questions at a certain level. Whether this means more rigor, or a different direction, is a hard question.


Copyright © Moraline Free