Thursday, February 25, 2010

a note on “philosophical work”

6:51 am

Question for today: Why does—might—philosophical work matter?

2:27 pm

I asked that morning question because...hmmm, I forget. The question is about a kind of work, not: Why does...philosophy matter? That question pertains to lecturing about philosophical topics; but is such lecturing philosophical work? Is “doing” philosophy the same as presenting well-organized explications of philosophical material, i.e., themes, arguments, ideas, taken from standardly “philosophical” works? What can be distinctively said about a kind of work, appropriately called “philosophical”? Why does that matter?

So, obviously, one can’t constructively address a question “Why does X matter?” unless one is clear what X is—truly is.

Long interesting to me is the ordinary use of the term ‘philosophy’, typically in such idioms as “my philosophy on that is”; or “the philosophy of the company is....” There, ‘philosophy’ is synonymous with something much like “guiding policy” toward interpretation of some matter, perspective, or goal orientation for activity. Philosophical work would be—well, such persons wouldn’t use the phrase, but—it would be work in policy analysis and policy formation. Everybody’s got a “philosophy” on this-and-that, but it’s no result of analysis and careful position formation! It could be fruitful, though, to transpose spontaneous or intuited positions into explicit policies, analyze the result, and re-formulate a set of beliefs or values in some more-appropriate manner. Ideally, that takes ordinary perspective and goal orientation and improves it relative to standards of policy articulation, criticism, and formulation.

That’s a process of progressive explicitness and appropriation to standard contexts, moving from improvised views to something much more formal. Leap from that into a fleshed-out professionalization of a topic, look at some comprehensive sense of professionalization, the academic domains backing up all of them, the conceptual commitments of each domain, the interrelations of domains, and the conceptual bridgework that seems to ground many of them, then you likely find yourself facing a history of discursive inquiry with a canonical legacy of conceptual views on standard topics that become analytical frames for emerging issues that are found to relate to each. Academic philosophy is closely related to the basic conceptual issues shared by domains, which may or may not anymore translate into standard issues in the history of philosophy. Emergent interdomainal interests (e.g., in now-institutionalized interdisciplinary programs) may or may not translate fairly into standard topical divisions of philosophical inquiry. Philosophical work is not necessarily reducible to the content of standard academic philosophy. This kind of condition of domainal and interdomainal conceptual work suggests notions of philosophy as process, e.g., as conceptual analysis or a conceptual therapeutic, independently of topical divisions. Philosophy meets the world as given and addresses—clarifies, critiques, or revises—the given world. What, then, is the “nature” of that work? Is there something constructive to be said about the pluralism of approaches to issues that is considered to be “philosophical”?

Why does such explication and questioning matter?

When I started to write something a few minutes ago, I had no explicit plan. I started with the morning question and have improvised. In the end, though, I see that I’ve improvised a preface to “integrative discourse,” 3 years ago, which—ha!—claimed to be an improvisation, too—but in a wholly different register of conceptual prospecting. Still, yes it was an improvisation, done over several days, not presuming to be a presentation of philosophical work, in the sense I’m implicitly anticipating with the morning question. The 2007 piece anticipates philosophical work near its ending, in its own obtuse register. The Website area of “conceptual adventuring” hasn’t really begun (let alone showing how it relates to an integratedsense of Appropriative philosophy,” which is presently a small set of occasioned topics and promissory indications of topics).

Believe it or not, a singular project has been developing that those Website areas [were to] anticipate. It’s thrilling to me to recognize (to recall again) that something specifically evolving backgrounds it all and has continued to develop over the past couple of years (notwithstanding periods of my life that took me away from The Work, gladly), which coming months of online work will continue to introduce in occasioned ways. It all feels like such fun to me.

What an odd person I am, to be sure.