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Friday, July 31, 2015

Mission Recall

"If its worth doing, its worth doing badly." GK Chesterton.

Now and then, usually then, but now now, I feel the need to review my mission in life. Ah! the insecurity of aging.

Social ethics is my game--another name for politics with a small "p." And ethics and politics are part of another small "p" word--philosophy. All philosophy, Wittgenstein said, is criticism of language. But more, it is criticism of all symbolic expressions of which language is but one. And most of all, philosophy is critical reflection on the activity of symbolic expression or thinking from the inside-out.

So philosophy of mind in dialogue with cognitive neuroscience becomes my way to understand and practice ethics and politics in my/our situation. That is my project. It involves acting where I can in the world to build community; it involves thinking and expressing my thoughts to clarify them; and its involves dialogue with others who are also acting, thinking, and expressing in order to keep transforming our thoughts. One symphony with different movements playing off one another.

Thus these reflections in "Rollie's Blog."

I said that I write to clarify my thoughts and transcend them.  But I cannot deny that I put them out to others as a way to clarify and transcend. Perhaps, in my own desire for recognition, I imagine that someone will take these writings, edit them, and put them together into a useful publication to be passed on to the next generation. Perhaps even I will try to do so though I am a terrible editor. But then I realize that is not what is important.

What is important, I feel, is the activity itself of which I am but a part. This activity of "critical reflection on the activity of symbolic expression or thinking from the inside-out" is the uncovering of what it means to be human and what it should mean in all our behaviors. It is perceiving the origins and meaning of the person, the conscious self, of the communion with other conscious selves, of our common world of time and space, and of our transcendence of the symbolic expressions that constitute our world and our selves. This activity seeks to reveal what is of nature (evolved into our embrained bodies) and what is of culture (created by our symbolic activity) while recognizing that culture itself, (including its myths, narratives, languages, religions, arts, and sciences) is of nature. And this activity not only works from the outside-in; but also from the inside-out. It works from the analysis of expressions that reveal the conscious brain or mind. It also works from the common experience of transcending consciousness as it unfolds into the world of others through symbolic expression.

That is quite an enterprise. And I acknowledge that I am inadequate to the task. But then even if I were the greatest writer, philosopher, poet, scientist, and artist alive, I could not adequately express the experience and meaning of the human project. Critical, creative, transcending consciousness can never be captured in words or any art form.

But what I can do in my action in the world, in my dialogue about it with you and others, and in all these expressions is point. All these words and diagrams and images point to the conscious activity in all of us while we earn a living, act politically, raise a family, and reflect on our lives. They point to the direct, pre-symbolic, pre-thematic experience of our communion with each other and with nature  before we get caught up in our own artifacts: our words, our concrete trails and buildings, our ideologies, our dogmas, our money, our institutions, our truths, our domestic and foreign policies, our religions and moralities.

So while I will never reach the end of my project, I hope to participate with you and all my fellow travelers in the reaching for the goal of our human project. It's worth doing. Even badly.


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