What Is Village Thinking?

The philosopher is likely a man of the city.* The man of the city lives among many, many faceless others. He knows a few people in the city, perhaps his family is there, and he may know those within his neighborhood. But the idea of the city and its faceless and nameless others is an abstraction. He knows they are out there but he does not know them. He thinks of them as composing “the city” that he is also a part of. He considers the city and what would be good for the city and what should be changed in the city. He makes these considerations based upon his own life and experience and what he has learned from the very few people he knows in the city.
Or the philosopher is alone in the city. The city and its faceless-ness allow him to become alone. He becomes anonymous in the city. He can disappear in the city. The philosopher disappears into himself and begins to think philosophically through a form of solipsism. He disappears from the others of the city, and the others disappear to him. Despite being surrounded by them, he may begin to doubt whether others really exist at all.**
For the city teaches the philosopher to think in one of two extremes: He makes abstractions from his experience and thinks and makes assumptions and political policies for all the others in the city that he does not know; or he forgoes the political and social and makes abstractions solely based upon himself and all the others of the city are made to disappear. Both the abstract idea of the many others and the abstract idea of a man entirely alone, are philosophical biases of the city philosopher.
But what sort of philosophy happens in the small town? The village? The small community where all the neighbors are known by name and recognized? In such a place there is no anonymity. Everyone is known by their name and face and perhaps a family history. Economics, politics and philosophy cannot be conducted as abstractions and speculations on the unknown others. And so, too, a thinker in the village can never begin to think of himself totally alone in the world. To be surrounded by family and neighbors who know your name is to be unable to make yourself anonymous.
Abstract and speculative thinking may not be possible in the village. But what sort of thinking is possible? What is village thinking?

* Indeed, the first and still most important work of philosophy is The Republic of Plato, a book about the city and all who live in it and outside it.

** Descartes is a prime example.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous8.1.13

    The village thinker doesn't think abstractly and speculatively because he doesn't have time to do so. Small village life is one of effort, of working to put food on the table. What need have they for philosophy? Philosophy shows up in city life as a result of abundance opening the doors to idleness. A man with nothing to do starts to ask himself, "Why am I here?" Thus philosophy is born as a means to fill his need to feel needed. The village man, by contrast, feels needed by default and so has no use for such questions.


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