Wednesday, August 12, 2009
What Is Philosophy?
Turns out I was mistaken when I said I had gotten rid of ALL of my Deleuze and Guattari titles. I have one, and it is this. I bought it at Talking Leaves Books. I am pretty sure it was for a class in the comp. lit department with Rodolphe Gasché. I don't remember much about this particular book, though it appears I read it very excitedly at some point: underlining, asterisks, exclamation points, names of other philosophers and various other notes to myself appear on almost every page. At certain points I highlight four or five pages consecutively, which I don't think is a very useful way to index anything.
The practice of underlining is a very strange one. I used to do it a lot when I was in school, mainly because I thought I might at some point need to lift a quotation out in order to drop it into a paper I was writing. I almost never write in books anymore. I alway regret having written in them. Once I put a book down, the train of thought that led me to underline things in the first place invariably disappears, so that when I try to decipher the markings I come to the conclusion that the person who made them was a) not me and be b) likely mad.
I feel a kind of shame, come to think of it, for having marked up a perfectly good book, and I am seized by a sudden fear that someone I know and respect will one day open the book, take note of what I have underlined, and come to the same conclusion about the person making these marks as I did.
And then they will start talking about me at parties, quoting all of the insignificant passages I have underlined, no doubt to the endless amusement of their friends, who will then go silent as I walk into the room, exchanging furtive smirks and glances among one another until I leave, at which point they will burst into a chorus of laughs.
Here is a passage I marked:
Today it is said that systems are bankrupt, but it is only the concept of the system that has changed. So long as there is a time and a place for creating concepts, the operation that undertakes this will always be called philosophy even if it is called something else. (This passage is marked with a vertical line in the margin at the center of which is an uppercase letter "A." I have no idea what "A" stands for -- possibly "Adorno," but that's only a guess).
We know, however, that the friend or lover, as claimant, does not lack rivals. If we really want to say that philosophy originates with the Greeks, it is because the city, unlike the empire or state, invents the agon as the rule of a society of "friends," of the community of free men as rivals (citizens). This is the invariable situation described by Plato: if each citizen lays claim to something, then we need to be able to judge the validity of claims. (This section is also marked by a continuation of the same vertical line from the paragraph above. However, the final sentence, after the colon, is underlined, and their is a large exclamation point in the margin. Reading this now, I don't see anything so profound and moving that it merits an underline, much less this other hysterical punctuation mark. I feel shame. I can hear you all laughing.)