What is a Work of Philosophy? Presentational Hylomorphism and Polymorphism. Studies in Critical Metaphilosophy & Critical History of Philosophy 4.

1. Byphilosophy” (aka “real philosophy”), I mean synoptic, systematic, rational reflection on the individual and collective human condition, and on the natural world in which human and other conscious animals live, move, and have their being. Philosophy in this sense fully includes the knowledge yielded by the natural and formal sciences. But philosophy also goes significantly beneath and beyond the exact sciences, and non-reductively incorporates aesthetic, artistic, affective/emotional, ethical/moral, and, more generally, personal and practical insights that cannot be adequately captured or explained by the sciences.

2. By the use of the term “works” as embedded in the phrase “presentational hylomorphism in works of philosophy,” I mean something as broad as its use in “works of art.”

3. So, there’s no assumption whatsoever here that philosophy MUST be presented in written texts, although obviously massively many and most works of philosophy have been and are written texts.

4. The thesis of presentational hylomorphism in works of philosophy (PHWP) says:

there is an essential connection, and in particular, an essential complementarity, between the presentational form (morphê) of philosophical works and their philosophical content (hyle).

5. “Content” is of course representational content, but this content can be either (i) conceptual, or (ii) essentially non-conceptual, and also it can be either (iii) cognitive-theoretical content or (iv) non-cognitive content, including, aesthetic, emotive, pragmatic, practical, and moral content.

6. Also, (i) and (ii) cross-cut with (iii) and (iv). There can be conceptual content that is either cognitive-theoretical or non-cognitive, and there can be essentially non-conceptual content that is either cognitive-theoretical or non-cognitive.

7. One thing that PHWP implies is the intimate connection between truly creative, ground-breaking works of philosophy, and truly creative, original forms of literary and spoken philosophical expression.

8. So, Socrates created philosophical works entirely by conversation; Plato did it by writing dialogues; Aristotle did it by presenting (it seems) nothing but lectures; Descartes wrote meditations; Locke and Hume wrote treatises; Kant wrote the Critiques; Kierkegaard wrote strange pseudonymous books; Nietzsche wrote poetry and aphorisms; Wittgenstein wrote the Tractatus and the Philosophical Investigations, both of them completely original, completely different, and equally uncategorizable, and so on.

9. A second thing that PHWP means is that since all works of written and spoken philosophy are essentially connected to their literary style and expressive vehicles, then by imposing a totally restrictive stylistic and expressive straight-jacket on works of philosophy, i.e., the standard “journal essay,” “200+ page book,” and “philosophy talk,” professional academic philosophy is effectively strangling or even killing real philosophy.

10. A third thing that PHWP means is that since the classical view of philosophical content is that it’s exclusively conceptual and cognitive-theoretical (“philosophy is all and only about conceptual analysis, arguments, logic, and under-laboring for exact science”), then recognizing the essential non-conceptuality and non-cognitivity of philosophical content, completely opens up the way we should be thinking about works of philosophy.

10.1 One way of opening up our thinking is to realize that written and spoken philosophy is in fact shot through with imagery, poetry, rhetorical devices, and speech-acts of various kinds.

10.2 Another way of opening up our thinking is to realize that philosophy need not necessarily be presented (exclusively) in written or spoken form. There could be works of philosophy that are cinematic, CGI animated or stop-action-animated, diagrammed or drawn, painted, photographed, musical (instrumental or voiced), sculpted, performed like dances or plays, etc., etc., etc., and perhaps above all, mixed works combining written or spoken forms of presentation and one or more non-linguistic forms or vehicles.

10.3 But most importantly of all, if philosophical content is as apt to be essentially non-conceptual or non-cognitive as it is to be conceptual or cognitive-theoretical, then there are VAST realms of philosophical meaning that very few philosophers, even the most brilliant and great ones, have ever even ATTEMPTED to explore, and that, correspondingly, in effect, contemporary professional academic philosophy is explicitly or implicitly totally committed to banning, hiding, and/or suppressing.

11. If this is all correct, then PHWP means that philosophers, for all their historical, recent, and contemporary activity, their mountains of publications, their hundreds of thousands (millions?) of “talks,” etc., etc.,

(i) have, thus far in the history of philosophy, only scratched or touched on the outermost surface and potential of what philosophical works can be and do (that’s the positive, exciting thought), and

(ii) as card-carrying contemporary professional academic philosophers, they’re systematically strangling, killing, banning, hiding, and/or suppressing indefinitely many actual or really possible works of philosophy, possibly even to the point that, later in the 21st century, if things go on in the same way as they do now, real philosophy will simply die, and so-called “philosophy” will survive only in a permanent, professional academic zombie-condition, the endless night of the philosophical living dead (that’s the negative, apocalyptic thought).

12. So, in full view of (i),

real philosophers should be breaking out of their presentational straight-jackets, and not only exploring different types of written and spoken philosophical expression, but also “making more movies” (Feyerabend), more animations, more diagrams or drawings, more photographs, more paintings, more music, more sculpture, more performances like dances or plays, etc., etc., etc.

Let us call this the thesis of presentational polymorphism in works of philosophy (PPWP).

13. Now thus far, in the 21st century, presentationally polymorphous experiments by philosophers have been restricted to popularizations of philosophical ideas, or teaching aids, e.g.,

WFTU-YCLSA-CU-JHB: ‘<b>Critique of Pure Reason</b>’

or,

http://<b>critique-of-pure-reason</b>.com/static/content/logicomix_paradox_s ...

But PPWP is referring to original philosophy created in non-standard presentational formats.

To take just one example amongst indefinitely many presentationally polymorphous possibilities, real philosophers might try making more “philosoflicks,” like this one.

14. In any case, in full view of (ii), real philosophers should be freely deploying and acting on PHWP and PPWP alike, in order to resist and subvert contemporary professional academic philosophy with all their might, like there’s no tomorrow.

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About Z

Z is a 50-something cosmopolitan anarcho-philosopher, and previously was a tenured full professor of philosophy at a public university somewhere in North America, but still managed to escape with his life.