Art of Inquiry, Chapter 2: Iterations

Excerpt from The Art of Inquiry, Chapter 2.


2.3. Iterations

Let’s turn to the second claim about ignorance. Recall:

2. I don’t really know what a suitable answer would be or, quite possibly, would look like (insight into ignorance);

What does it mean to ‘not really know’ what a suitable answer would be? In some cases, we may be rendered speechless but in most we will advance answers that either (1) used to make sense but no longer do or (2) strike us as immediately implausible. Doubtless, what will happen will be that we run through a set of possible answers and find each answer insufficient. It is as if we were to say, “No, that’s not it” or “That is, at best, only a part of it.” We run through these answers, are dissatisfied with each and with certain combinations, and soon run out of answers.

To say, therefore, that ‘I don’t really know’ is to say that I have no good answers ready to hand and I’m at a loss concerning what to do or how to go on.

2.4. Confronting our Thinking in General

We’ve been discussing the character of confusion as well as what confusion feels like. It’s time, in this section, to turn our attention to how we arrive at confusion in the first place. Most of our lives are not spent in confusion and very few questions have the power to stir us, carrying us into a state of confusion. If we are in confusion, we may inquire how we got here. In addition, we will want to consider why confusion may, at certain periods in our lives and during certain stages of our work, be desirable.

Let’s remind ourselves of the thought that we are basically committed to something or other of ultimate importance. What would it mean to bring this basic commitment before us, to bring it into question? It might be to experience a ‘’confrontation with our thinking in its entirety.’ A good philosophical inquiry may confront us with the most basic claims about our way of living. When this happens, i.e., when we are confronted with our thinking in general, we recognize that the possibility of our returning to an old way of thinking impossible but no new path is, as yet, foreseeable. We may desire to turn back, may be so tempted, but we have an intimation that that way is foreclosed. We long to move forward quickly but no light shines on a path.

What now, we may ask.

2.5. From Actuality to Possibilities

The first moment, a confrontation with our thinking in general, leads us to a second moment, a realization that the old way is foreclosed. The third moment is the leading onto a ‘space of possibilities.’ That is to say, we make the transition from a ‘space of actuality’ concerning how things have to be into a space in which novel possibilities are revealed to us. My life in this organization, not having to head one way anymore, might now head in any number of fruitful (or unfruitful) directions. In this instant, there is exhilaration as well as caution, bewilderment as well as curiosity.

2.6. Bewilderment, Redux

To be continued…