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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Part 9. The Delight of Thinking

(Postscript: I assign this essay as part 9 of my "thinking on thinking" series; part 7 will be "thinking religiously" and part 8 "thinking sexually.")

I came across a quote by one of my favorite philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche. It was in the forward to a book he was writing called the Will to Power. He said (my translation): "This is a book for thinking, nothing more. It's for those for whom thinking is a delight, nothing more."

That quote sums up what I am doing here. I don't expect to be widely read. Nor do I expect to save the world. And it seems my expectations are being met. But I do delight in thinking. And in a sense there is nothing more.

From my study of thinking from Kant to Hoffstatter, I draw these provisional conclusions:

  1. Thinking is a constructive activity by which humans, personally and socially, adapt to their environments by creating their world.
  2. In human development, thinking evolved in the nervous system centered in the neocortex brain as a life-advantaging capacity to anticipate danger and plan for changing environments.
  3. Thinking is corporeal by which human bodies use sounds, images, lines, and motions to impose and find patterns in their experiences of the environment. 
  4. The artifacts or constructs of thinking are categories, analogies, models, ideas, names, words, concepts, forms, beliefs, formulas, reasons, conclusions, mind-maps, or, as I prefer to call them all, symbols.
  5. Thinking is spatial. In thinking there is the focal experience of the environment as it is patterned; and there is the background experience of the body that is patterning the environment through symbols. Consciousness is the name we give to the sense of inner existence (the body experiencing itself in symbolic activity) apart from outer reality (the body or things being experienced through symbols). This two-pronged experience gives rise to the illusion of mind or spirit as separate or separable from the body or matter.
  6. Thinking is social. Symbolic behavior is interactive, i.e. between and among human bodies. We need each other to think. Symbols are learned and formed in a social milieu, in communication. In communication through symbols, there is dual experience; the inner sense of the self in sync with other selves and the outer experience of things in the world that appear in the symbolic interaction. The appearance of others as both acting selves and as objective bodies in the world gives rise to the illusion of the individual detached from others or a society without individuality.
  7. Thinking is temporal. Symbols are remembered to be used again, that is, refined, expanded, and offered for future use. In thinking there is a sense of transience of both the constructed symbols and the body symbolizing. In the immediate present with the evidence as structured, the symbol is confirmed as the reality, the thing-in-itself, the answer to the question for all times and places. This give rise to the illusion of the absolute.
  8. Thinking is intentional. It is consciousness directed outwards to the world and inwards to mind, backwards to the past and forwards to the future, detached as individual and relating to others. To think is to continually push beyond the boundaries of space, time, and community by questioning the previous answers, redesigning the previous models, redefining the previous words; and thus experiences its transcendence. 
  9. Thinking is acting. Humans come to terms with their environment through symbols; humans engage with each other to form their environments into the world they live, act, and have meaning through symbols. The categories humans use to know the world are the categories they use to act in the world. 
  10. The self-awareness of symbolic activity as thinking is consciousness; the self-awareness of symbolic activity as acting is conscience. Conscience is symbolic activity aware of its intentionality, that is, its tension between past and future, inner and outer, self and others and so the world as it is and the world as it ought to be. Thinking implies personal morality and social action. A theory of thinking implies an ethics and politics. Humans choose what is good and what is bad, what is to be done and what is to be avoided, based on their sense of direction. 
  11. The illusions of thinking are obstacles to knowing truth and avoiding fallacy and to doing good and avoiding evil. Thinking has within itself (in its ability to loop back upon itself) the ability to dispel the illusions and overcome the obstacles to transcendence.
  12. Since the world is the product of human thinking and action, humans should take responsibility for the world they are creating and not shift blame or power outside themselves. The "should" or "ought" comes from the intentionality of human existence through thinking aware of itself.
  13. There are three intentions in human existence: the desire to live, to act, and to know; or in other words, the drives to life, power, and meaning. These drives correspond to three realms of human existence: economy, the realm of production and consumption; politics, the realm of constituting community by acting in concert; and culture, the realm of religious, artistic, and scientific expression and knowledge. For each of these drives and their realms to transcend and achieve goodness they must be thoughtful; that is objective, self-critiquing, problem-solving, inclusive of others, acknowledging limits, and oriented to future possibilities. 
  14. Thinking is a moral imperative. The real and the ideal is what we think it to be.
I know I will be going back to this list. I will add references to the studies that produced these statements. I will try to explain them in more common usage language. I will correct them with more precision. I will respond to questions concerning each of them. I will try to clear up the misapprehensions, deal with the apparent inconsistencies, and defend the violations of conventional thinking and common sense that I seem to be guilty of. After all, in my thinking of thinking, I am using categories, metaphors, analogies, and symbols that need to be continually questioned and revised.

To end this reflection I return to Nietzsche. I delight in thinking and in getting others to delight in thinking with me. Thinking is the activity by which we become human, by which we create ourselves and our world. It is the way to transform our economy, our politics, and our culture so that they promote our existence which is also our transcendence. There is nothing more.

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