Philosophizing’s folding back on itself

This meditation is inspired by a philosophical conversation that took place earlier this morning.


As living discourse between philosophical guide and philosophical friend, philosophizing ‘folds back’ on itself. If, unlike sages and gurus, philosophers never come with answers in hand, then they must inquire in order to understand. Then, how would the inquiry have to look in order to for them to be answerable both to the idea of the not coming with answers in hand and to that of coming to such answers? What would such a philosophical relationship have to look like in order to exemplify not approaching in the fashion of hubris?

A question would be posed, an initial answer given. (Or it wouldn’t be supplied because it would be beyond one’s powers, as of yet, of understanding.) This initial answer would be considered, examined; it would only be provisional, also about as puzzling as the question itself. Like a pleat, the inquiry would unfold as well as fold back on itself. For it is only by answering a question provisionally, then coming back to that answer, then examining it, then revising it, then moving away from it, then returning to it… that we learn not only that we have not had answers in hand but also that we are fine-tuning ourselves.

And how have we been all along? We have been bewildered (perhaps because this question seems necessary yet impossible to answer), we were receptive to changing our views (and, by implication, ourselves), and we were honest in our determination concerning where we stood and what we now grasped. Looping back again, asking that question again (the third time? the fourth? the fifth in a different formula?), we managed to come to a better answer than the one we began with. Far from impossible to answer, the question yields to tenderness.

Afterward, we may revise the answers we gave, live out the answers so revised, return bewildered by new questions only now disclosed by the answers lived out and unfinished. So, we inquire again but from a better place, knowing still that the answers do not come in hand but rather come to us from the dialogical unfolding, knowing also that these answers may be contorted and in need of some unfolding, some bending and unbending with bending life. Looping back in order to become clearer, we proceed in view of this redress, this better turn.

In the beginning was this turning. How, therefore, shall we turn out to be? (We do not know yet.)