Creative Energy V: Listing Some Categories, Jamming, 12/12/2017

I think I’ve at last figured out how to talk, in the fairly ordinary language of my blog, about the most intense kind of creativity in philosophical thinking and discourse. I had to talk around it for a while first – getting a sense of what it wasn’t before I could wrap my tongue around the idea.

When I was re-reading What Is Philosophy? I could understand the idea well. But I couldn’t just repeat Deleuze’s lines about catching hold of chaos. I wanted to take what, in his language, remains really weird, and make it more broadly understandable.

To catch hold of chaos and ride it as long as you can. That's what it
means to create at the speed of thought.
So let’s list what we’ve got here.

D) Your work becomes an object of historical study.

C) Other people pick up your concepts and elaborate them into more complex, versatile, multifaceted ideas and problem spaces – or else they devolve into sniping and arguing over each other’s interpretations.

B) Actively applying your novel logic of thought in more specific problems, or to issues in different disciplinary discourses.

A) Developing an entirely new logic of thought in the thinking, blurring the distinction in your thought between your own acts of thinking and the movement of the new logic itself.

Qualifier. When I say the phrase, ‘logic of thought,’ I’m not necessarily talking about a new symbolic logic.* I’m talking about inference in general, how you move from one idea to another. So a new logic of thought is a new way to infer from one idea to another, leading you to construct entirely new concepts to suit those new kinds of inference.

* But developing symbolic logics can be one way, among many, to develop a new logic of thought. Look at Saul Kripke or Graham Priest for examples.

My first education in philosophy, at Memorial
University's philosophy department in the mid-
2000s, had a very Kantian framework, simply
because there were so many Kant specialists
and Kant fans in the department at the time. It
didn't make me a Kantian, but I think the
influence is pretty clear in how I use the word
'understanding' on the blog and in my other
Also, if you want a print of this cartoon, or
any other funny pictures of great thinkers,
it's by Gary Brown.
Let’s go back to that example of Kant’s thought. After all, he’s a famous thinker in the Western tradition of philosophy, who also embodies very distinctly each category of how creativity begins and is received in philosophy.

Example of (D). Read any essay or book discussing Kant’s development as a thinker, or explaining his philosophical ideas and concepts.

Example of (C) – the bad kind. Go to a conference of tenured or tenure-seeking Kant scholars and listen to them talk to each other. It’s infuriating. “I’m right!” “No, I’m right!” “No, you’re both wrong! But I’m wrong too!”

Example of (C) – the good kind. Books and essays that adapt Kant’s ideas to contemporary problems in morality, politics, and science. They don’t even have to reference or quote Kant in any detailed sense – simply demonstrate your skills at applying the concepts.

Example of (C) – the best kind. Use Kant’s concepts as a launching point or components for your own attempt to build a new logic of thought. Think of the Kantian components of John Rawls’ liberalism, or Hannah Arendt’s fascinating spin on the Critique of Judgement that informs her own departure into a new language of political thinking.

Example of (B). Kant’s Metaphysics of Morals. Kant applies the concepts he developed in the Critique of Practical Reason to pretty much every moral question that mattered to Prussians in the 1790s.

Also, think about the later chapters of John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice, where he applies the concepts he developed in the first half of the book to the major debates of political and social philosophy in the 1970s.

Example of (A). Kant’s three Critiques. The concepts of empiricism, mind as a framework for understanding experience and empirically limited reason in the Critique of Pure Reason. The postulates and machine of universal moral reasoning in the Critique of Practical Reason. The positive account of empiricism and as-if concepts in the Critique of Judgment.

So we have our examples. Now what is actually happening in the (A) mode of philosophical thinking? This is where things can get super-trippy.

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