No Point of View

At a time when nearly everyone’s view of the world has become political, partisan and reified, perhaps we should look to the “anti-philosophers” such as Lev Shestov, who understood that all points of view are not only false but harmful to the human spirit and the pursuit of wisdom.

From Lev Shestov’s All Things Are Possible

A point of view.- “Every writer, thinker- even every educated person thinks it necessary to have a permanent point of view. They climb up some elevation and never climbs down again all their days. Whatever they see from this point of view, they believe to be reality, truth, justice, good- and what they do not see they exclude from existence. People are not much to blame for this. Surely there is no very great joy in moving from point of view to point to view, shifting one’s camp from peak to peak. We have no wings, and ‘a winged thought’ is only a nice metaphor- unless, of course, it refers to logical thinking. There to be sure great volatility is usual, a lightness which comes from perfect naivete, if not ignorance. Anyone who really wished to know something, and not merely to have a philosophy, does not rely on logic and is not allured by reason. They must clamor from summit to summit, and, if necessary, hibernate in the dales. For a wide horizon leads to illusions, and in order to familiarize oneself with any object, it is essential to go close up to it, touch it, feel it, examine it from top to bottom and on every side. One must be ready, should this be impossible otherwise, to sacrifice the customary position of the body; to wiggle, to lie flat, to stand on one’s head, in a word, to assume the most unnatural of attitudes. Can there be any question of a permanent point of view? The more mobility and elasticity a person has, the less they value the ordinary equilibrium of their body; the oftener they change their outlook, the more they will take in. If, on the other hand, they imagine that from this or the other pinnacle they have the most comfortable survey of the world and life, leave them alone; they will never know anything. Nay, they do not want to know, they care more about their personal convenience than about the quality of their work. No doubt they will attain to fame and success, and thus brilliantly justify their ‘point of view.’”

Logic vs Real Thinking

From Lev Shestov’s All Things Are Possible

“There is no mistake about it, nobody wants to think, I do not speak here of logical thinking. That, like any other natural function, gives people great pleasure. For this reason philosophical systems, however complicated, arouse real and permanent interest in the public provided they only require from people the logical exercise of the mind, and nothing else. But to think- really to think- surely this means a relinquishing of logic. It means living a new life. It means a permanent sacrifice of the dearest habits, tastes, attachments, without even the assurance that the sacrifice will bring any compensation.”

Understanding vs Knowing

“The effort to understand people, life, the universe prevents us from getting to know them at all. Since ‘to know’ and ‘to understand’ are two concepts which are not only non-identical, but just the opposite of one another in meaning… We think we have understood a phenomenon if we have included it in a list of others, previously known to us. And, since all our mental aspiration reduces itself to understanding the universe, we refuse to know a great deal which will not adapt itself to the plane surface of the contemporary world-conceptions… To us it seems, on the contrary, that in the interests of knowing we should sacrifice, and gladly, understanding, since understanding in any case is a secondary affair.”

From Lev Shestov’s All Things Are Possible

The Price of The Practical

A dear friend recently sent me Morris Berman’s The Reenchantment of The World. Here’s a lovely quote from the introduction:

“Scientific consciousness is alienated consciousness: there is no ecstatic merger with nature, but rather total separation from it. Subject and object are always seen in opposition to each other. I am not my experiences, and thus not really part of the world around me. The logical endpoint of this worldview is a feeling of total reification: everything is an object, alien, not-me; and I am ultimately an object too, an alienated ‘thing’ in a world of other, equally meaningless things. This world is not of my own making; the cosmos cares nothing for me, and I do not really feel a sense of belonging to it. What I feel, in fact, is a sickness in the soul.”

Everything Is Possible

From Lev Shestov’s

Everything Is Possible;

“Philosophy must have nothing in common with logic; philosophy is an art which aims at breaking the logical continuity of argument and bringing humanity out on the shoreless sea of imagination, the fantastic tides where everything is equally possible and impossible”

Stoic Wisdom

The Stoics believed that we are: “Neither masters of matter nor of thought, human beings at their most rational do not order the world but submit to its forces and make them their own.”

from Elizabeth’s Grosz’s “The Incorporeal”

Eugene Minkowski

From Eugene Minkowski’s Lived Time. This wonderfully expresses the joy and agony of the need to create, especially the need to create the future.

“To surpass, to surpass what has been done: what desire that incites! The call is so violent that it becomes agonizing. We have the feeling sometimes of losing our foothold entirely, of surpassing the present moment too much, of running the risk of saying things which, have nothing to do with the present, remain misunderstood, although they could explain what future generations will someday recognize as true: yet don’t they become lost in nothingness because our contemporaries do not fall into step with them? As a matter of fact, it is a vain fear, for the personal effort springing from the depths of our being cannot create discontinuity in life, nor can it come to be broken against any discontinuity.”

Karl Jaspers, The Origin and Goal of History

“I should like to maintain awareness of the dependence of our cognition upon current standpoints, methods and facts and, thereby, of the particularity of all cognition; I should like to hold the question open and leave room for possible new starting points in the search for knowledge, which we cannot imagine in advance at all.”

“Wonder at the mystery is itself a fruitful act of understanding. It may even be the very goal of all understanding, since it means penetrating through the greatest possible amount of knowledge to authentic nescience, instead of allowing Being to disappear by absolutizing it away into a self-enclosed object of cognition.”

Upside-Down Philosophy

I’ve always been turned off by philosophical systems, from ancient to contemporary, preferring maverick, poet-philosophers such as Nietzsche and Camus. This quote from Henri Bergson, from the introduction to The Creative Mind, I believe hits the mark.

“Philosophical systems are not cut to the measure of the reality in which we live… [they] could apply equally well to a world in which neither plants nor animals have existence, only men, and in which men would quite possibly do without eating and drinking, where they would neither sleep nor dream nor let their minds wander; where born decrepit, they would end as babes in arms; where energy would return up the slope of its dispersion; and where everything might just as easily go backwards and be upside down.”


The fact that this makes me laugh out loud also makes me realize what a giant nerd I am 🙂


All theoretical analysis, scientific or otherwise, is wrong from the beginning. It requires a dividing up of a fundamentally indivisible world, creating static entities deprived of their most essential quality of duration* (that is, real time in which they are constantly changing and evolving)  then grouping these artificial, frozen fragments based on identifying that which is not identical and differentiating  that which is not different**, and finally by positing relationships between these groups, at which point we are so far removed from reality that we enter the realm of the absurd.

That is why all conceptualizing is false. This is not a Nihilism. It is an Everythingism.  Where everything presents itself to you so vitally and insistently, brims over inside of you with such strength and life, that you refuse to see violence done to it.

*see Henri Bergson

**see David Bohm