Perceptive Sensemaking: Coalescing into the Many Things

My love Aleksandra Lauro has been thinking carefully about her consultancy, Perceptive Sensemaking. By ‘perceptive sensemaking,’ she means the ability to draw and reorient the viewer’s attention to an excellent way of life: to an exemplar of the contemplative life; to the qualia–that is, the inner feel, the grainy look, the general mood–of a beautiful place; to the particular kind of natural environment in which one can be attuned to nature.

In this her most recent exhibition, ‘Coalescing into the Many Things’ (Autumn 2013), she offers the viewer a simple, humble, and beautiful representation of the philosophical way of life. The demonstration is meant, above all, to be inspiriting, uplifting, edifying. From this vantage point, the artwork, the edited photos, and the overall site design all seek to draw our eyes to what is best. There is light that dazzles beyond the cave.

See also: ‘Coursing: A Day in Photos’:

http://andrewjamestaggart.com/coursing/

Awakening to Philosophical Life: Now Available

Philosophical Awakening

This e-book, which is now available to order, is entitled Awakening to Philosophical Life: Essays Personal and Impersonal. It was completed at the end of February of 2013 and is meant to be a philosophical review of my attempt to be a moral exemplar: a good friend, a good neighbor, and a humble guide to philosophical life.

The 43 personal essays selected for inclusion in this beautiful volume date back to January of 2011 and were written with no other intention apart from the desire to become a more excellent human being.​ They show the reader how–by paying close attention to examples–to awaken to philosophical life.​​

How to Order

I live and work in a gift economy. The suggested gift for this book is $12.

To order a copy, you can visit andrewjamestaggart.com/guides. Alternatively, you may offer the appropriate gift via PayPal here. Expect to receive your copy via email the same or the following day.

To read a few excerpts from the book and to get a better feel for it, you can visit andrewjtaggart.com/books.

About Me

I’m a Ph.D.-trained philosophical counselor who teaches individuals and organizations throughout the US and Europe how to inquire into the things that matter most. A former resident of the Upper East Side in New York City, I now lead a simpler, more contemplative life amid the gentle mountains of rural Appalachia.

‘One feels wonderment upon witnessing a life transformed…’

One feels wonderment upon witnessing a life transformed. What is expected is that life will stay the same in its essence or get worse with age. We get used to the idea of our burdens, are counseled to ‘manage’ or ‘cope’ with them. Sameness is our ailment, our life affliction once we have come of age. What is to be wondered at, then, is that a life transformed is and is not possible, is and is not explicable. On the one hand, a detailed record of accurate observations can be given, revealing the gradual turns, the granular gradations, the minute shifts. On the other hand, the transfiguring event or events remain unobserved, sorites paradox asserting itself, shrouding in vagueness the very moment when grace was bestowed upon one. Is it that transformation, puncturing and punctuated, occurs but only as what is unseen: unseen, unverbalized, yet experienced inasmuch as it is shown? Is it that transformation is revealed unspeakably to the one least expecting it, unawares yet fortunate, affirmed, redeeming the whole of my life?

Philosophy as metanoetics

Excerpt from Tanabe Hajime, Philosophy as Metanoetics, trans. Takeuchi Yoshinori, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986.

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[L]ife consists of the continuous practice of “death-and-resurrection.” Metanoesis is practicing, and also being made to practice, this “death-and-resurrection” according to criteria of the value and meaning of our existence, or, more correctly, of the valuelessness and meaninglessness of our existence. It must begin with a casting away of the self that is no longer qualified to exist because it is forced to recognize, through suffering and sorrow, that its being is valueless.

This means that metanoesis (zange) is the exact opposite of despair in the ordinary sense, which consists of getting discouraged at ourselves, asserting our negative self, and growing increasingly vexed to the point of forgetting the fact that we have been condemned to original sin. In contrast, zange is a true self-surrender that consists not in a recalcitrant despair but in a submissive one, a despair in which we renounce all hope for and claim to justification. Submissive despair thus preserves the permanent wish that our being be as it ought to be. Through such despair we suffer from the serious discrepancy in our being that which “ought to be” and that which is “as it is.” Through zange we regard ourselves as truly not deserving to be, and thereby enter fully into a state of genuine despair leading to self-surrender.

On the very idea of philosophy as a way of life

I have been corresponding with Michael McGhee via email. McGhee, an Honorary Research Fellow in philosophy at the University of Liverpool, said that the MA program in Philosophy as a Way of Life at the University of Liverpool folded a few years ago, not long after it began and around the time that he retired. Perhaps the modern research university, the kind dreamt up by Humboldt and copied by Johns Hopkins, the kind that would become the model for education in the twentieth century, is not the institution in which a pupil can learn how to lead a philosophical life.

Yesterday, I was speaking with Robert Kugelmann, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Dallas, about the fine book he had written on–and against–stress. I confessed that I had not read it through. He told me that his one line conclusion for the use of the word was to “stop using it!”

At the moment, Kugelmann is teaching an undergraduate course in the history of psychology. The students are reading the ancient philosopher and medical doctor Galen’s book, The Cures of the Soul’s Passions. Galen argues that the end of philosophy is to become a wise men. “And are they learning to become wise?” I asked him. “Good question,” he said. “I hope they are becoming more open about these questions.” One of the limitations of the field of psychology, he said, is that it fancies itself a science.

Over the past couple years and after countless conversations with a wide variety of intellectuals and laypersons, I have yet to disconfirm my theses (on the idea of testing a thesis in this fashion, I’m thinking of Karl Popper on falsifiability) that, first of all, philosophy as it is taught in school is grasped as a theoretical discourse chiefly (words about words, theories about something or other, etc.), not as a commitment to living philosophically and, second, that philosophy as a way of life cannot be taught in the educational institutions we have inherited. (Both mistakes have been carried over into ‘popularizing’ philosophical organizations like The School of Life and Idler’s Academy and, more dogmatically still, into the School of Practical Philosophy.) Philosophy, I have written sometimes, is analogous to rational chanting. Or: philosophy is like praying by other means.

McGhee pushed back somewhat, arguing:

I think the notion of philosophy as a way of life leaves room for a theoretical expression of what constitutes such a life, but it is certainly true that you don’t need to be an intellectual to be a member of a philosophical community in the sense we both embrace, I think.

I replied,

I agree with you that a philosophical life must make room for theoretical reflection on the nature of such a life, on how it hangs together. But–well–I think there’s theory and then there’s theory. (What is this–Groucho Marx?) Reflection on such a life within the confines of the practice of philosophy is good and, provided it comes at the right time, entirely needful. By contrast, professional meta-ethics, say, once and already severed from a basic commitment to leading a philosophical life with one’s fellows, seems to me woefully misguided. I remember attending conferences and writing words like “bloodless” and “wooden” in the margins of my notebook.