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pathways (letters)

17 October 1996

Dear Daniel,

You will gather from the relative promptness of my letter (in reply to yours of 12 October) that I am making some headway towards clearing my work backlog. Some time between now and Christmas I have to write the final six Pathways units (three on ethics, three on the Presocratics) for students who are waiting for their overdue instalments.

Then there's my talk at Hull University on 'The (Partial) Vindication of Solipsism', which is about my theory of subjective and objective worlds (from my book Naive Metaphysics). A member of the Hull Department came to Sheffield a couple of weeks ago to give a paper on Aesthetics. He assured me that solipsism was likely to prove a very popular topic. You can draw whatever conclusions you wish.

I can't remember what I said about freedom. Did I use the 'F' word? Never mind. What I meant to say about McIntyre was that he is interested in the conceptual underpinnings of Freud's work, viz. the concept of the unconscious. McIntyre's investigation is relevant to any theory which appeals to the notion of the unconscious, not just Freud's.

I remembered another book which I read a few years ago which is relevant to these issues. It's The Self in Transformation by Herbert Fingrette. I think it was a Dover edition; my brother-in-law Adam has it now. Fingarette went on to write a much-discussed book, Self Deception, in the Routledge 'Readings in Philosophical Psychology'. But the earlier book is a fascinating exploration of connections between the aims of psychotherapy and aspects of Eastern philosophy. His main theme is that we are seeking in therapy to overcome a certain egregious form of 'self-consciousness'.

This appears in stark contrast to the Freudian formula of 'becoming conscious of the unconscious'. From talking to Adam, it seems to me that the aim of someone going in for orthodox Freudian/ Kleinian analysis (I suppose I am thinking especially of those who are seeking 'self-transformation' rather than those who need it!) is to gain control of their 'self', to make aspects of their personality parts of a repertoire that they can call upon at will rather than be condemned to 'acting out'. Something about this leaves an unpleasant taste. What are they afraid of?

'Why do you admit a piece of writing into philosophy [sorry, Philosophy] and refuse admission to others?' A piece of writing is philosophical if it engages with the concerns of philosophers. That criterion is in a sense circular (who are the 'philosophers'?) but it is meant to be. Philosophy is defined by paradigms, by its historical preoccupations and obsessions. Now many pieces of writing are relevant even highly relevant to philosophy that are not philosophy. To engage with the concerns of philosophers involves entering into a 'dialectic' (in the Socratic/ Platonic/ Aristotelian sense).

Now you say that the concept of 'human energy', were it to be accepted, 'would put an end to Cartesian Mind-Body dualism'. There's an essay I would like to read! But you have to assume that the reader is too stupid to see the connections: you have to argue your case. ('That just shows philosophers are stupid.' I agree. Call philosophy the ultimate form of stupidity, a stupidity refined to the point where it becomes addictive.)

I don't know what 'philosophy' is (except that it is the thing philosophers do). I have my own persuasive definition: Philosophy is Metaphysics. I am not interested in 'analysing concepts' or seeking 'foundations of knowledge' or patiently clearing the ground for the advance of science. I am interested in The Ultimate Nature of Things. But, being stupid, the only way I know how to ascend to a vision of the Real is by climbing a ladder of words.

(Talking of words, the last six units of Pathways will add up to 30,000. Over the last two years I have written 84 5,000 word units. In addition, if I write two letters in a day one, like this letter, before breakfast, the other whenever that adds another 2,000. I am choking on words, suffocating on them.)

I would very much like to see an essay from you on human energy. How is the idea related to the mind-body question? If that seems like stating the obvious, state the obvious. Or how is it related, say, to the 'human world' of the young Marx (the rejection of the picture of human beings as merely part of organic nature)? Or Macmurray's 'personal world'? While I'm thinking about it, there is an American analytic philosopher John Searle who has written a book on the problem of consciousness, arguing against the orthodox, functionalist view that a computer could be conscious. (His thought experiment of the 'Chinese Room', where an uncomprehending clerk patiently 'translates' Chinese into English using the 'Chinese-into- English' rules has entered into academic mythology as the ultimate 'refutation' of AI.)

Yours sincerely,

Geoffrey Klempner