Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Thread

I am reading two books right now. One Dharma by Joseph Goldstein and The Revolt of the Elites by Chritopher Lasch.

I started this blog upon stumbling upon a friends blog called Pirsig Affliction. Its a long story, but I have come to be a fan of Matt's writing there on Philosophy and I missed not reading him for a couple of years after I stopped being subscribed to the MOQ.ORG mailing list. Anyway, he had a lot of posts and archives to go through, so I began printing off his threads at work and reading him at home as I became reacquainted with Richard Rorty and pragmatist philosopy. I don't know much about Philosophy but everything I have read from Matt seems to make a lot of sense to someone like myself with a bent toward the practical.

Well, funny thing is, no sooner than I finish catching up with Matt's thoughts, I begin the introduction to these two books which are completely dissimilar as far as topics. Let me quote from each beginning with One Dharma first.

A new mantra began emerging in my practice, and it was a very truthful response that had been plaguing me: "Who knows?" ..."Don't know mind," a phrase often used by Zen master Seung Sahn, enabled me to embrace a variety of perspectives, seeing the different views and methods as skillful means for liberation, rather than as the statements of absolute truths I was taking them to be. ..."Skillful means"is a phrase often found in Buddhist literature referring to the particular methods and practices used to help people free themselves from the bonds of ignorance. As skillful means we employ whatever is useful, whatever is truly helpful.

And from Revolt of the Elites:

The quest for certainty, which became an obsessive theme in modern thought when Descartes tried to ground philosophyin indubitable ppropositions, was misguided to begin with. As John Dewey pointed out, it distracted attention from the real business of philosophy, the attempt to arrive at "concrete judgments ...about ends and means in the regulation of practical behavior." In their pursuit of the absolute and immutable, philosophers took a disparaging view of the time-bound and contingent. In the world view of Western Phiosphy, knowing came to be split off from doing, theory from practice, the mind from body. ...The trouble in academia...derives not from the absence of secure foundations but the belief (shared it must be repeated by both parties of the debate) that in their absence the only possible outcome is a skepticism so deep that it becomes indistinguishable from nihilism. That this is not, in fact, the only possible outcome would have been abundantly clear to Dewey, and the revival of pragmatism as an object of historical and philosophical study--one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal picture--holds out some hope of a way out of the academic impasse.

I have always found that there is a thread weaving from the works of authors I read that resides somewhere in the pages - a truth revealed but remaining still unattainable. From Kundert to Goldstein to Lasch the thread remains as resolute as ever even as the subjects vary disparately.