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I quite often imagine a man who would be possessed of everything we know, in terms of accurate operations and recipes, but who would be entirely ignorant of all notions and words that do not provide clear pictures or give rise to uniform, repeatable acts. There will come a time that is, a man — when the words in our philosophy will appear as an odd set of antiques only scholars will know of.
Thought will not be spoken of any longer.
Notice de Beuchot Le Philosophe ignorant. Première question. II.— Notre faiblesse. III.— Comment puis-je penser? IV.— M'est-il nécessaire de savoir?. Ce livre est parfaitement mis en page pour une lecture sur Kindle, Le Philosophe ignorant est un texte philosophique de Voltaire publié en décembre dans.
The word Beauty has already lost almost all philosophical use. This is how Mephistopheles, in Mon Faust, describes the kind of game philosophers play with each other:. It is enough for them to agree with one another just enough to keep their disagreement alive, which is what they live for. It is not, to be sure, that this kind of words is altogether useless.
For instance, instead of speaking of freedom, we could just speak of the feeling of freedom that we have to a greater or lesser degree at different times, which is the only indisputable reality standing behind that word, and we could take the same altogether deflationary approach to any word that has fed philosophical quandaries, interrogations, and speculations with its inexhaustible vagueness.
Indeed, the possibility and the temptation to philosophize are always connected with the existence of terms that give the impression of an unfathomable depth and that we can never see the end of, whereas words should never have any thickness; one should always be able to finish with them instantaneously. They are historical, with all the accompanying problems. Truly it looks like words in motion and combination are quite a different thing from the same words inert and isolated!
Augustine confesses that he wondered one day what Time is; and he acknowledges that he knew it well when he never thought of asking himself such a question; but as soon as he applied himself to that noun, stood still by it and isolated it from any immediate use or specific phrase, he lost himself in the crossroads of his own mind. A very profound remark. He plainly does not believe that a therapy that philosophers would take upon themselves to design and apply is necessary and useful.
Concerning the metaphysical arguments and controversies that took place about mathematics, for instance, he remarks that they did not seem to have anything but a negligible influence on its evolution. Still he knows full well that it is not so and can say it better than anyone else:.
After listening to a lecture by Einstein, he writes:. I am very interested at the end. He develops his uncertainty and his faith , based on the architecture or beauty of forms. From my youth, I was convinced that, in the liveliest phase of intellectual research, there is no difference, other than a nominal one, between the internal manipulations of the artist or poet and those of the scientist.
We come to regard them as we do friction in mechanics. Every language is a means.
Poetry tries to make it an end. Now, he says,. I fail to see any other measure of knowledge than the actual power it endows me with. I only know that which I can make. He writes in his Cahiers :.
The idea of making and being made is inseparable from the human mind — thus it always produces it, thus it is almost always mistaken in introducing it. The idea is only legitimate in a very small field; yet it is so important, so organic, that it will still declare itself every time. He takes why to be anthropomorphic, as opposed to how, which is not; 84 yet he also sometimes remarks that why, how, and so forth are still analyses of an act and thus human, too human, hence they cannot be made to apply to what is not man.
And how could it be otherwise? We only argue over the dose. Conversely, men sometimes labor with their hands, ideas, and plans in order to shape within a lifetime what it takes nature thousands of centuries to turn out without the slightest interference of any thought. Chance occurs to explain away what is remarkable in that sense, namely, what could not be produced in the same way as the rest.
But to speak of something remarkable is by itself to introduce someone to do the remarking, and it is essentially this one who provides all that is remarkable there. Chance does nothing in this world — except get itself noticed. Yet this obviously does not imply that we best understand what is making in ourselves and how it is done. Rather the reverse holds. The fortuitous gives him birth, makes up his life, marries him off, gives him his thoughts, and kills him.
After all, this is quite as vain and naive a problem as it is to argue over what made a nice work of music or poetry; whether it was born to us from the Muse, or came from Fortune, or ripened after a much protracted effort? When we say someone wrote it, that his name was Mozart or Virgil, we do not say much: it does not live in the mind, for what creates in ourselves does not have a name; we thus write off every man but one from the matter — and the whole untouched riddle is tightly locked up in his private mystery. But genius is really the last thing that could take up the position of author in the descriptive pattern for an action.
For this could well be the most impersonal, least individual thing there is in ourselves:. I am a fatalist [he writes]. It may be that chance, after giving us birth and giving us our thoughts, also gives us our will, or what we believe to be such, and our actions, including those of our mind.
It takes two to invent. One to make up combinations, the other to choose, to recognize what he wants as well as what matters to him from among all the communications of the first one. It is not a purely automatic one, it is endowed with judgment, discernment, and tact. It can choose and guess:. Yes, it is a better guesser than the conscious self, since it succeeds where the other one had failed. Unlike animals, we suffer from a surfeit of mind compared to the actual means we have, which explains our unschooled and immoderate curiosity and our pretensions at understanding and knowing more than we are able to, that is, among other things, philosophy:.
Animals are those beings which have just as much mind as they have means. Which makes them fair and measured and always worthy of their acts except the ones that bear some resemblance to man and seem agitated, obtrusive, lewd, and nosey. All my bits of knowledge, my reasonings, clarities, and curiosities were only playing either a lamentable part or no part at all in the decisions or actions that mattered most to me. But we might wonder why it ought to be otherwise with the workings of our mind. The idea of the making of the poem or of the works arouses me, intoxicates me more than any work — and all the more so nota bene when this imagination grows more independent from the person and persona of the maker.
Even contradiction. Say I did what I could. Therefore when talking about his own work, he tends to place that term in quotation marks. But, at the same time, a mind at work has to be the declared, steadfast, and relentless enemy of chance.
We could say that "intelligence [ No chance, no reflection. To reflect is to insist on gambling on the same color, the same horse, the same number. A so-called superior thinker ought therefore to be as humble as a great gambler whom luck smiles on more than it does on others.
Doing what one can is no doubt, as the saying goes, giving luck a hand as much as possible, although luck will be luck, and you can never tell exactly what kind of a hand you gave it, nor how you might have deserved it. He writes comparing the way a professional philosopher such as Bergson built his philosophy with the way he made his own:. Bergson tells me yesterday that he had cleared off everything by — and started making himself a system by studying memory and gathering data on amnesia, which he regards as the reality of the matter.
I inwardly noted that I set myself to my own philosophy two years later in — and did not need to clear everything off, since I had nothing to clear away in the first place.
And, for my method, I just trusted my way of seeing mental things — since I felt a sort of repulsion to records. It is absolutely not science and may have to sever any unconditional tie with science. To be an ancilla scientice is no better than to be an ancilla theologice. I am not claiming I am right, which would not make any sense any way. I am saying that, in my present attempt, this dauntless formula of mine allows me to consider that the form in question is one among those of which a certain language is capable, and that the being who speaks this language and speaks it to himself may neither outrun its means nor escape the innuendoes and associations the aforesaid language insinuates into him.
The idea I had was to conceive of an artificial language based on the reality of thought, a pure language, a system of signs — that would make explicit all modes of representation — that would stand in relation to a natural language as C[artesian] did to the g[eometry] of the Greeks, that would exclude a belief in meanings of terms in themselves, stipulating the compositions of complex terms, defining and listing all modes of composition.
Certainly, the analysis of the workings of the mind must be a field of inquiry that philosophy may pride itself in having contributed to most significantly. I am trying to find which words or phrases I would have used or made up to phrase to myself my own perceptions of mental things if I had not been acquainted with abstract slang — words like knowledge, consciousness, mind, etc.
All those terms and most others are just time-hallowed […] expedients. They are more fit for crudely understanding other people than oneself. Philosophical words are far too vague to capture thought in its details, they cannot form into reasonings of the true logic of man.