Inclining the ear of the mind

A rare and lovely morning free. A time for reflection…

Addressing the young cenobite, St. Benedict speaks of ‘inclining the ear of the heart.’ Reading this, recalling it, meditating upon it this morning, I am put in mind of philosophical conversation: of the activity which teaches one how to incline the ear of the mind.

In The Concept of Mind, Gilbert Ryle seeks to pay mind to mindedness. The mind is not a ‘ghost in the machine.’ On the contrary, mind is worlding: one is minding–that is, proceeding carefully, attentively, mindfully–when one is paying heed to what and how one is doing. There is but one activity–minding–when one is philosophizing.

Now, a philosophical conversation is an activity of inclining the ear of the mind. The mind follows along the slow and carefully crafted speech of the philosophical friend and, by means of this inclining, listens and responds with the next appropriate question, the next minded line of thought. The listening is a listing: the listing of the ear, the delicate listing of a boat, the listing of musical fingers…

This inclining ear-of-the-mind responds not with stock phrase (since it cannot) but with living discourse of the sort that remains true (think of a wheel’s ‘being true’) to the living discourse of the philosophical friend. We sense: inclining mind-ear to–or rather, with–inclining mind-ear: such is what transpires. Such, dispassionately, absorbedly, is called ‘mutual understanding.’

Mind pays mind, paradoxically, when it follows along with gentle care at the same time that it inclines all minds thitherward. Two inclining minds thus minding the way. Following a course. Inclining toward it, on it. So, coursing.