Saturday, March 31, 2012

Ponty Part 1: On Analytical Reflection and Perception

So I was following along pretty well until page 279 when the topic changes to "problematic of reduction" and distinguishing the other. I'm only half way through reading, but I was experiencing the feeling of forgetting what I had grown to understand from sentence to sentence much like I did when we read Heidegger. So I will try to write about what I understand so far. After the first two paragraphs which seem mostly like an introduction to the philosophical background of Phenomenology, Ponty launches into a much more in depth discussion of his ideas.

He begins his "descriptive psychology" by creating a definition of phenomenology by negation, in part, I believe, because we can never truly "define" anything that exists in its entirety (performativity?). He tells us what phenomenology is not, and it is definitely not science: "I am, not a "living creature" nor even a "man," nor again even "a consciousness" endowed with all the the characteristics with zoology, social anatomy or inductive psychology recognize in these various products of the natural or historical process-- I am the absolute source, my existence does not stem from my antecedents, from my physical and social environment." Ponty believes that people cannot be defined by scientific schema because we created them. Much like Heidegger's mention of our human nature to divide our world up into categories that do not naturally present themselves, science is an equally incomplete means of defining the world or our being in the world. However despite the fact that we may not be rooted in scientific schema, I personally would argue we may still in part be defined, and even enriched by it, (rather than diminished), much the same way as our individual existence in part defines the ever present existence of our world. I believe much of the greatness in life comes from both our ability and inability to define our world, for it is that which gives us infinite variety.

In part this quotation reminded me of exactly that, and of Ponge: "Science has not and never will have, by its nature, the same significance qua form of being as the world which we perceive, form the simple reason that it is a rationale or explanation of the world." If we define an apple in scientific or in historical or poetic terms, we still cannot get closer to appleness. HOWEVER! As a people we can get entirely intimate with apple measurements, apple heritage, and apple poem. Which is exactly why we do such things :) People cannot fathom all of the ways of knowing or defining any part of our natural wold and therefore, "the demand for a pure description excludes equally: 1. the procedure of analytical reflection on the one hand, [because it is an act and therefore always in flux or transition (not fixed as 'truth' should be)] and 2. that of scientific explanation on the other. [because it is so limited]."

After this Ponty talks extensively about Analytical Reflection as well as Perception. "Analytical reflection starts from our experience of the world and goes back to the subject, (consciousness), as to a condition of possibility distinct from that experience, revealing the all-embracing synthesis as that without which there would be no world." The world of possibility beyond our experience is the only world because we cannot experience everything in every way. I look at the "all embracing synthesis" here as a variation of the over-soul. Something that levels the playing field between all things, where all relations and possibilities are equal. But I think I may be confused here. Anyhow, Ponty argues that Analytical Reflection wants to find "ground" as Heidegger would call it, a stable and enduring truth within or possibly without man. However reflection is by nature rooted in "impregnable subjectivity" and therefore inadequate for seeking truths. "My reflection cannot be unaware of itself as an event, and so it appears to itself in the light of a truly creative act, of a changed structure of consciousness," while, "The real has to be described, not constructed or formed" because it is there before any possible analysis of ours.

There is then a change in topic a couple of times. For instance Perception is described as non-deliberate and instantaneous and therefore not on the same standing as action or understanding. Despite the fact that we believe perceiving to be an act, it is entirely unintentional, we cannot help smelling and seeing and hearing and feeling our world (unless otherwise impaired). I believe he is saying at one point that it is our perception that allows us to know that we exist, although I believe any argument about whether or not we exist is shallow and pedantic. Anyhow he goes on to discuss how despite the fact that our Analytical reflections are constantly seeking truth of "inner man" that our most base ability of perception shows us that there is no "inner man" because "man is in the world, and only in the world does he know himself." We cannot remove ourselves from it.

At one point Ponty talks about imagination and creation but I can't exactly understand what he is getting at, though I feel like I like it because it relates somewhat to what Dresden Codak made me think of about, the transformation of the ordinary into symbols and relation to abstract or seemingly irrelevant thought based on experience. I'd like to talk about what he is trying to say about imagination in class.

The only thing I got from the paragraph beginning on 279 is that Ponty believes that it is our active meaning-giving operation that defines consciousness and that "reduction" has something to do with the fact that the world is "an indivisible unity of value" (an idea we have discussed before), and within it each individual consciousness is not only equal but indistinguishable because of their identical and unavoidable function and relativity to the earth.

Ok. I'm out of steam. Hope there was something useful in that. I'll write more when I finish reading.

Reduction and Truth

As I sat here reading about phenomenology and Ponty's thoughts about it, I couldn't help but think a lot about Heidegger, which I'm sure no is surprised about (since he's mentioned a few times in the reading). However, the particular quote from Heidegger that I kept thinking about is one that we have discussed a couple of times: the discussion of what "standing in the truth" actually entails. Just to remind everyone, the exact quote is: "But to know means to be able to stand in the truth. Truth is the openness of beings. To know is accordingly to be able to stand in the openness of beings, to stand up to it. Merely to have information, however wide-ranging it may be, is not to know" (Heidegger, pg. 113). The more that I think about this quote, the more I think it may be impossible (if not, at least extremely difficult) to actually be able to "stand in the truth," which brings me back to my thoughts about Ponty and phenomenology. Ponty says: "The most important lesson which the reduction teaches us is the impossibility of a complete reduction... If we were absolute mind, the reduction would present no problem. But since, on the contrary, we are in the world, since indeed our reflections are carried out in the temporal flux on to which we are trying to seize, there is no thought which embraces all our thought" (Ponty, pg. 281). It seems to me that reduction and standing in the truth are both impossible because of all of the information out there in the world. We cannot grasp at one single piece of knowledge and learn every little bit of information possible about that one thing because there are so many other things bombarding us all the time for our attention, just like how "there is no thought which embraces all our thought."

The Metaphysical Club

I will go to absurd lengths to procrastinate writing a paper.


Merleau-Ponty and James (and Nietzsche of course)

In our discussions in class, I’ve been relating pragmatism to perspectivism and I did the same thing with Merleau-Ponty but in reverse. I know that Ponty isn’t strictly perspectivism (after all, this section is entitled “What is Phenomenology”, not “What is Perspectivism”), but much of his discussion reminds me of perspectivism, particularly this: “All my knowledge of the world, even my scientific knowledge, is gained from me own particular point of view, or from some experience of the world without which the symbols of science would be meaningless” (277).

Within the first paragraph of this reading, I found a quick connection back to James and pragmatism. Ponty says, “[phenomenology] tries to give a direct description of our experience as it is, without taking account of its psychological origin and the casual explanations which the scientist, the historian, or the sociologist may be able to provide” (276). We discussed James and pragmatism and what I got from that discussion is almost exactly was Ponty is saying—that we should analyze things in how they relate to us and our experiences with them. We should not analyze things simply from a scientific point of view because really, that means nothing if it has little to do with us and something’s effect on us.

Also, since I keep bringing Nietzsche up in class, I figured I might as well here too. I found a particular sentence that reminded me strongly on Nietzsche and his views on perspectivism and what perspectivism does. Ponty writes that, “to seek the essence of perception is to declare that perception is, not presumed true, but defined as access to truth” (282). Nietzsche wrote that perspectivism eliminated any kind of objective truth to begin with, but perspectivism stood as a constant invitation to discussing and a search for something close to an objective truth. I believe Ponty is declaring the same thing in calling perception “access to truth”.

Decidely anti-science, but somehow not angry about it

Alright, so I got the individual parts of what Merleau-Ponty is talking about.  Descartes' idea of 'I think, therefore I am,' the idea of all non-palpable things being conveyed as essences, and the overall gist being we cannot examine these essences unless we start at the one thing we know, ourselves.  There are then a good five pages after he gets through all of that though, and I think I'm missing that entirely.
With that in mind, I really want to tie him to James' Pragmatism.  James focused on how 'true' is a property assigned by humans and it has nothing to do with whether things exist. Ponty is trying to decipher what the essences are according to him, therefore assigning them a truth that relates only to him.  Also, both share the relational epistomology.  "I am the absolute source, my existence does not stem from my antecedents, from my physical and social environment; instead it moves out towards them and sustains them, for I alone bring into being for myself." (page 277)  In other words, we decide what we consider/how much we include in our world and it is through our experiences that we know it.  He doesn't have to know exactly what they are.  "My field of perception us constantly filled with a play of colors, noises and fleeting tactile sensations which I cannot relate precisely to the context of my clearly perceived  world, yet which I nevertheless immediately 'place' in the world." (page 278)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Another reference:

This is possibly one of my favorite comics of all time and I highly recommend it:

Anyhow, in the first several panels of this strip Kimiko mentions "vital memories suspended by the mundane: a smell, a phrase, maybe an old song" or in her case the owl faced puppet. I was just thinking about how interesting it is that the ordinary is so frequently imbibed with our own personal, yet sometimes entirely irrelevant histories and experiences. We are associative creatures and its interesting to think about what happens to the ordinary when we make it into a symbol of something else, especially when the symbol is personal or intimate rather than archetypal.

Catchin' Up: Wild Apples

Much like one of my favorite poems, "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" by Wallace Stevens, Thoreau presents so many ways of looking at an apple that we cannot help but see the extraordinary within all things we may consider equally mundane. He covers physical, horticultural, biblical, symbolic, biological, spiritual, historical, sensory, literary and personal ways of perceiving apples. His accounts are almost overwhelming in their variety and his references are so strange and particular that you can't help but admire his dedication to these Kings among fruit. Over all I found Thoreau's thoroughness (intentional), inspirational and though I don't mean to sound patronizing, adorable. I once met a man who was similarly captivated by leaf cutter ants and I decided it is easy to listen to, or in this case read, anything written by somebody who is passionate about their subject.

I know we talked about this in class but I particularly enjoyed the bit about the saunterer's apple and the necessity to eat it out in the November air which is, "the sauce  it is to be eaten with." It reminds me of Heidegger and Emerson's discussions of mood and begs the question, does our mood influence sensory perception or does sensory perception influence our mood? Although I suppose neither really matters. I feel like this is a common experience, not only with apples but with many things in life. Certain movies are better watched in certain company, restaurant's have better food depending on how hungry you are or what you were doing at the time, etc... Thoreau makes the world seem to revolve around the apple, all its subtleties and influences, he make it appear larger than life, makes you want to take a bite and sit in deep thought about every sensation that arises from it. And maybe that's what it takes to really enjoy life. Thoreau seems to be able to get close to the apple without bringing us to that precarious nebulous place and I find this fascinating. How does he do that? Are we simply transported by his passion? His thoroughness and ability to highlight subtleties? I'm not sure, but now I can't stop thinking about strawberries because I feel the same way about those as he does about apples.

Wild vs. domestic strawerries
the pop of the very best being plucked from the bush
frozen stawberries
dark vs. light stawberries
late vs. early season berries
wet vs. dry season berries
strawberry stains on your hands and lips and clothes
candied strawberries
the bugs and animals they attract
How every time we've tried to grow strawberries deer come into our yard
the smell of strawberries
I guess I don't know of many strawberries in history or literature though...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Deciding Rightly, Deciding Wrongly

I will let James set the stage for this post: "Let four men make a tour in Europe. One will bring home only picturesque impressions -- costumes and colors, parks and views and works of architecture, pictures and statues. To another all this will be non-existent; and distances and prices, populations and drainage-arrangements, door- and window-fastenings, and other useful statistics will take their place. A third will give a rich account of the theatres, restaurants, and public halls, and naught besides; whilst the fourth will perhaps have been so wrapped in his own subjective broodings as to be able to tell little more than a few names of places through which he passed. Each has selected, out of the same mass of presented objects, those which suited his private interest and has made his experience thereby."

I can only speak for myself, but my initial thought was that the final man had the worst experience of the three. I do not mean worst in the sense that he did not enjoy himself, but instead that there was a right way or at least a spectrum of "rightness" regarding having this experience, and compared to the other men's experiences, his was somehow wrong. James certainly appears to support this claim; "The man of genius is he who will always stick in his bill at the right point, and bring it out with the right element..." (12). And earlier, he says, "The most important element of these fringes is, I repeat, the mere feeling of harmony or discord, of a right or wrong direction in the thought" (10).

What is it, then, that makes one man in one situation make one choice-- the "right" one-- and another man in the same situation make another-- the "wrong" choice? Is the second man not attuned to the "harmony" of his thoughts? Or is his "harmony" of a lesser quality than the first man's? And in either case, how could we blame the second man or praise the first if their thoughts are comprised of their experiences and determined by mere "habits of attention" (12)? I am sounding like Schopenhauer here, who James criticizes; "Schopenhauer, who enforces his determinism by the argument that with a given fixed character only one reaction is possible under given circumstances, forgets that, in these critical ethical moments, what consciously seems to be in question is the complexion of the character itself. The problem with the man is less what act he shall now resolve to do than what being he shall now choose to become"(13). My question is this: is "what being he shall now become" really a choice one can make? It seems to me that deciding "what act [I] shall now resolve to do" is in quality no different a thought than deciding "what character [I] shall now become," and so there seems an injustice here. The assumption one makes in calling one choice "right" and another "wrong" is that every man understands this distinction and that rightness is absolute. James doesn't deal in absolutes, so I don't understand how rightness and wrongness figures into his discussion, and if rightness and wrongness are subjective, as he seems to say, than it would follow that we could not fault someone for making the wrong choice-- to wrap this up, we couldn't fault the fourth vacationer, for example, for having his detached and somber experience.

And yet, it seems, we still do.

"No State Once Gone Can Recur"

At first I was skeptical after reading James' statement "No state once gone can recur and be identical with what it was before." But as he says, the object that you view or inspires your thought may be the same but other factors have changed. I could stand in a field one day and have certain thoughts, or a certain state of consciousness. I could go to the same field a week later and stand in the same spot. I could wear the same outfit, position myself the same,  and repeat the same behaviors from the other day. However, I will have had other experiences and thoughts since the last time I was in the field and therefore, I could not have the exact same thoughts as I did a week before. And if I tried to force myself to have the same thoughts, this would not be organic and I would fail to not be led onto a different path of consciousness. At least, I think that's what James meant.

My mind's Stream of Consciousness

You spend a lot of time going 'and then what did I think?' and 'what should I think of next, wait, I can't do that.'  Eliminating all of that stuff though, here is what I think is a running rhetoric of my forty minute walk as I enjoyed my day.

No shoes, I took them, but they weren't used.  Tied to my pants with a small ribbon.  Pink and overly cutesy, a wrapper from my care package by my niece.  We're so different, despite only 6 years age in between.  The difficulty of walking while taking notes on what you're thinking.  The difficulty of writing stream of consciousness while concentrating on it.  As I write down the last thing, new things pop up in my mind.  I hope I don't get mistaken by zombies, running around in the woods.  Broken bottle remains of a Saint Patrick's Day.  Saint and alcohol.  Wisdom in a beer bottle.  Rocky and dry paths are better than the cold moist mud of the forest.
I sat by the stream ad tossed in rocks, smooth granite or crystal, so unlike the rocks already in place.  What is this equivalent of?  (edit: talking about the reading where James talks about there can be debris in the stream, vivid memories from the past, but free water still flows around them.)  False planted memories, the rocks eroding and far down stream a geologist finds stares at the granules with confusion.  "This wasn't here before.  Was it just uncovered from it's shale cage or has it been tossed in by those looking for the thrill of a splash."  But I never actually sat down, it was all in my head, nor had the rocks to toss, though I paused to linger in the cool air of a place where the sun left behind and taste that smell that only the damp spaces have: laughing as a small boy and a my little pony floated down the stream in a popcorn bucket.  That didn't happen either.
I don't think of death or taxes, nor any philosophy, only where best to place my poor toes.  Why am I singing this out in my head?  [The packet] speaks of consciousness flowing together to 'erase' the empty times where you don't think.  I wonder if this is happening as I chase rivulets of water down the river with my eyes.  What happened in my head the last five minutes?  I don't enjoy standing in the middle of travel ways, I feel like a car is going to come and hit me.  Even if I am down a walking path on a foot bridge.  I've been here once before, Thanksgiving break.  Untouched, but smothered, the snow was think and undisturbed, only ruined as I walked across it, carefully leaving footprints so it looked like someone should still be on the island, even after I'd left.  It is an experience I have never again enjoyed, even as I try at every snowfall, but it is remembered.  [Addressing the packet where James talks about never having the same reaction twice, despite the similarities.]  Stairs to nowhere.  To nowhere?  Well, to a bush, not exactly nowhere.  But a bush isn't no where.  When you have arguments in your head, do you already know the answer?  I seem to surprise myself.  That feeling you get when you see something structurally strange and you want to go jump on it to see if it's structurally sound, and yet, you'll only try it if you already know the answer.  I was too bored to read the memorial after the first sentence.  Feet growing cold, but I still refuse to put on shoes.  Where is the fun if you can't poke cold toes at your boyfriend in vengeance for not joining you due to video games.  Water only looks like glass until you drop it off a cliff.  Afterwards, I have the strange desire to stick my toes in it.  I'll  head back.
I'm plagued by the desire to write 'cheese', though ridiculous and unrelated.  That's ironic.  HIPSTER!!  My feet to home, my mind lists the things I still have to do.  I'll spare you.  I'll spare myself.  Survival of the Fittest.  I snapped out of S of C when I realized I was doing it.  Is that possible?  Was startled by a person running, on a sidewalk, the nerve.  Too caught up in recording.  People in the car like my pants.  Probably not, they're yelling at everyone.  Skepticism.  I'm going to have trouble reading this [this is the actually the first sentence i really had trouble reading...]  No room.  Same runner from earlier.  Did I mention him?  No, I was on pants.  I wonder if everyone yells stuff at him as he runs.  That's why America is really obese.
Congrats if you actually read all of that.  I think I got all of my thoughts and connected to the packet solely by accident.  Welcome to my mind!

Consciousness and Purity

I'm attracted to the idea of our consciousness blending rather than simply being jointed together. If our consciousness were "chopped up in bits," our daily experiences would have no relations to past experiences - including the immediate past. If this were the case, would our relations to ordinary objects be like new every time? Would we have to re-teach ourselves simple things in life? Would every time I ate an apple feel like a new experience, despite how many times I've eaten an apple, because my consciousness would tell me it is a new experience? Thoreau may claim so (only if it was eaten in the wild, its natural habitat), but the fact that our consciousness is not choppy in this way allows for us to relate our current experiences with past experiences, and our current relations to objects with past relations of objects, no matter how much time has passed between. I feel James successfully illustrates this concept through his description of thunder piercing silence when he writes, "For even into our awareness of the thunder the awareness of the previous silence creeps and continues; for what we hear when the thunder crashes is not thunder pure, but thunder-breaking-upon-silence-and-contrasting-with-it. Our feeling of the same objective thunder, coming in this way, is quite different from what it would be where the thunder a continuation of a previous thunder."

Now my question is this: if our consciousness flows like a river through all of our experiences, do we ever really and truly experience something purely? James claims that thunder breaking silence is not pure thunder, for it is "thunder-breaking-upon-silence-and-contrasting-with-it." Therefore, it doesn't seem to me that any clap of thunder is pure; if it's breaking silence the thunder contrasts against the silence, and if it follows another clap of thunder, it contrasts with that clap of thunder. If our consciousness successfully blends itself through experiences in this way every time, how can anything we experience be pure if we are constantly relating experiences and objects to the immediate and far off past?


While reading James Classics in the History of Psychology, a passage really struck me with an interesting thought.  James writes “Are not the sensations which we get from the same object, for example, always the same?  Does not the same piano-key, struck with the same force, make us hear in the same way?  Does not the same grass give us the same feeling of green, the same sky the same feeling of blue, and do we not get the same olfactory sensation no matter how many times we put our nose to the same flask of cologne?” (pg 3).  This passage made me instantly think of deja vu and the weird sensation that you have already experienced something that you have not.  James pervious mentioned that experience happens through sensation and each sensation you have is an experience.  I agree with that statement, but what about deja vu?  When a simple sensation makes me feel like I have already experienced that very experience before.  The last line in the passage I quoted mentioned the smell of a familiar cologne bringing up the same sensation as every time you smell it.  This line struck me in a personal way because I believe that our senses are a huge part of our experiences.  The sensation that strike out senses, like touch, feel or sound, help us to have certain experiences.  For me, there are certain smells and songs that can instantly bring me back to a specific experience or time in my life where those  sensations were a regularity of life.  With that said, I believe that sensations are what help form experiences and deja vu is evidence that sensations contribute largely to experiences.  
My fault guys. Well, kind of the copy machine's fault, kind of my fault. Let's split the difference. In any case, obviously not your fault. Here's the full text. Do the reading. Post sometime before class if you can. If you can't, I understand.

A Little Confusion, A Lot of Madness

This was a difficult reading to understand, not because of its contents, but because the lack of contents. I have never before tried reading a book by skipping every other page, and I now know I shall never try it as I would miss too much great information. The parts that I have I found fairly interesting, especially the bold line on page 11 that says, "Consciousness is always interested more in one part of its object than in another, and welcomes and rejects, or chooses, all the while it thinks." This made me think about all of the mass amounts of information that we all take in daily that our mind must sift through, and how we only ever notice a small portion of it, because if we were forced to notice every bit of it, we would all probably go mad.

Missing pages?

Friends, am I the only one with only half the reading? I discovered this morning I had just the odd-numbered pages (1 of 13, 3 of 13, etc.), which incidentally did make me feel better about not understanding anything after the first page. Maybe it's just me, though. If so, I apologize in advance for posting late, as I still have half the reading to do and the Coyote matinee is today. If you haven't gone, you should! It'll stretch out your brain.

That's all.

James and Perspectivism

I definitely had a very hard time with this reading. I don’t know if it was because I did it late at night, but I had to re-read several sections to have even a basic grasp of what James was talking about.

However, one part I did latch onto was his discussion of sensations being different according to perceptions or moods. “Are not the sensations which we get from the same object, for example, always the same? … What we got twice is the same OBJECT. We hear the same note over and over again; we see the same quality of green, or smell the same objective perfume, or experience the same species of pain”. This reminded me perfectly of our discussion concerning Emerson’s idea of the “train of moods like a string of beads” that “paint the world their own hue” (Experience). We talked about how a song can make you happy one year and then when you listen to it later it makes you sad. Nothing whatsoever has changed about the song, only you have changed.

In relation to this idea, James says that, “[t]his is what makes off-hand testimony about the subjective identity of different sensations well-nigh worthless as a proof of the fact.” I can see where James is coming from but this idea seems to discredit any level of perspectivism. Yes, people are bound to have different perceptions and their sensations will therefore be different, but that only means there is no absolute, objective truth—something with which I thought James sort of agreed.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


If you narrow things down enough, eventually everything ceases to become ordinary.
Out of the entirety of the human population, educated people are ordinary.  Out of the high school educated population, philosophers are rather ordinary, since most people debate the meaning of life or work at some point in their life.  Out of all 'philosophers' people who spend their lives dedicated to higher thoughts are unordinary.
Pragmatists look at philosophy with the idea that humans could be far more successful with their lives if we weren't caught up on unsolvable conundrums and trying to solve them.  Countless wars, deaths and atrocities have been waged over the question of which religion is correct.  Some scholars have dedicated their lives to answering one question, like what exactly does 'ordinary' mean, or what is the starting point of life.  Pragmatism is abnormal in comparison to most philosophers.  Instead of trying to find the best answer to a question that can stand up to logical questioning, they search for the answer that makes it easiest for people to move on with their lives.

 As usual, I'm not sure where my point is here.

The Way People Think

"Pragmatism is an account of the way people think." Well alright then, I guess I can understand why we are reading this; after all, what's more ordinary than people thinking? Of course, how people think varies from person to person, but studying and discussing those differences may help us to understand how one thing may seem "ordinary" to one person, and uncommon to another person.

One of the quotes that I found the most interesting in this reading came from the introduction, saying, "They confirm what the pragmatist has always claimed, which is that what people believe to be true is just what they think it is good to believe to be true" (pg. xii). This line stuck out to me because, while I hadn't thought about it much before, I think it's correct. A lot of people will believe in something only because they believe that it is good to believe in it, not because they actually think it is true. For instance, peer pressure is often the reason why a person will change their mind about something they had previously believed otherwise, such as whether skipping a class is a good idea or not, or whether you should get eight hours of sleep at night, or only five. While these thoughts may change over time, often times they and other thoughts are molded by those around us, not just ourselves, so what they "think is good to believe" is created from others as well as themselves.

Pragmatism and ordinary thought

For me, the most potent intersection of pragmatism and ordinariness lies in the fact that James unites philosophical thinking with ordinary thinking; that is, he says that what differentiates philosophy from other kinds of thought is aura and vocabulary; the same rules apply. My own particular phobia about philosophy has always had to do with an idea of myself as incapable of "thinking philosophically" -- that is, sufficiently rigorously, objectively, abstractly. James' writings, when I first encountered them, seemed to allow the kind of personal, subjective, interested (in both senses) thinking that I was doing into what I had perceived as the cordoned-off realm of philosophy. Feeling that way made me want to read more philosophy, which in turn positively affected my ability to read philosophy...and so runs the pragmatist circuit. Our ideas and desires and feelings affect the way things "really" are.

I'll quote here what has become a very important passage for me. James' description of the process of thought has been useful for me both in understanding my own thinking (both "ordinary" and "philosophical") and in understanding how my students navigate the texts and ideas I present them with.
The process here is always the same. The individual has a stock of old opinions already, but he meets a new experience that puts them to a strain. Somebody contradicts them; or in a reflective moment he discovers that they contradict each other; or he hears of facts with which they are incompatible; or desires arise in him which they cease to satisfy. The result is an inward trouble to which his mind till then had been a stranger, and from which he seeks to escape by modifying his previous mass of opinions. He saves as much of it as he can, for in this matter of belief we are all extreme conservatives. So he tries to change first this opinion, and then that (for they resist change very variously), until at last some new idea comes up which he can graft upon the ancient stock with a minimum of disturbance of the latter, some idea that mediates between the stock and the new experience and runs them into one another most felicitously and expediently.

Practical Action

When looking at the history of the word Pragmatism, James writes “The term is derived from the same Greek word...meaning action, from which our words “practice” and “practical” come” (pg. 94).  When looking at the two words together, it means to make practical action.  James later writes “He turns away from abstraction and insufficiency, from verbal solutions, from bad a priori reasons, from fixed principal, closed systems, and pretended absolutes and origins.  He turns toward facts, towards action and towards power” (pg 97).  This quote really helped me to understand the self power that Pragmatism is.  James is making it clear that Pragmatism, like its actual meaning, is all about the self making practical decisions for himself.  This makes Pragmatism ordinary, because by following the idea of Pragmatism man is doing what is ordinary for himself, opposed to following other’s fixed principals or closed systems.  Pragmatism is the right to decided for one’s self and to go towards facts and actions that he believes in; following his own path of ordinary opposed to following other’s paths of ordinary.  Lastly James writes “At the same time it does not stand for any special result.  It is a method only” (pg. 97).  This means that it does not matter the out come of the decision, as long as it is right for you.  It is the method of what your do pertaining towards your own truth, not the outcome of what you do.     


I'm finding myself so affected by the idea of pragmatism that it's difficult to restrict myself to the question at hand--that is, what pragmatism has to do with the ordinary. On the one hand, I want to say that pragmatism gives primary importance to the ordinary--the everyday--where previously it was given only secondary attention (particularly, James notes, by Idealists). But on the other hand, it is not an absolute external world which is pragmatically considered, for that would be empiricism, but instead the relationship between the subject and the world. This resistance to detaching a subject from his world is reminiscent of Heidegger, although I think Heidegger is otherwise not very pragmatic, despite being both existential and phenomenological. But I will stop myself here since, as I suspected, I am already straying off topic.

It is difficult to say anything definitely about pragmatism, because there is no thought that is inherently and statically pragmatic; it is thoroughly dependent on its practice. This volatility, this dependence on individualism, is almost un-philosophical; I mean this in the sense that what is pragmatic for me may not be pragmatic for anyone else. But philosophy aims at universality. Can one speak both pragmatically and universally? I am straying again.

Let's see. Pragmatism relates to the ordinary because its only concern is how I interact with the world, specifically and generally. "What difference does it make, whether Orion is up there in heaven, or some god paints the image in the firmament of the soul? ... it is alike useful and alike venerable to me." --Emerson, "Nature"

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pragmatic Chambers

While looking through my class notes, I stumbled upon this question when we were discussing Francis Ponge in class, "Does language move us closer to things, or does it divorce us of things?" Based on my notes, our conversation attempted to answer this question by saying that language of various kinds alters our perspective of an ordinary object at hand. By using language that we are accustomed to, we have a sense of closeness and/or distance from capturing the essence of an ordinary object. Ultimately, all language is equidistant from the heart of the object (philosophy, physics, poetry, carpentry, etc.); no discipline, nor language associated with any discipline, reaches the heart of the matter more than the other. Different disciplines simply reveal different aspects of the ordinary.

Similarly, James writes, "[Pragmatism] lies in the midst of our theories, like a corridor in a hotel. Innumerable chambers open out of it. In one you may find a man writing an atheistic volume; in the next someone on his knees praying for faith and strength; in a third a chemist investigating a body's properties. In a fourth a system of idealistic metaphysics is being excogitated; in a fifth the impossibility of metaphysics is being shown. But they all own the corridor, and all must pass through it if they want a practicable way of getting into our out of their respective rooms" (98). Therefore, I feel like it is safe to assume that pragmatism works at an individual level. We use our own "chambers" (aka languages/disciplines) to disclose the relations of ordinary objects to us at an individual level. While pragmatism cannot explain where judgments derive from (predictably cultural "rules"), pragmatism empowers us as individuals to trust and formulate our own judgments, assumably based on our language/discipline of choice, to think of such relations.

Pragmatism and bread

I was struck by pragmatism and the way it is explained because it reminds me a lot of Ponge’s “Bread” vignette. Ponge finishes “Bread” by saying, “But let’s cut short here. For bread should be mouthed less as an object of respect than of consumption.” Ponge warns us not to worship or simply sit around discussing the bread. After all, bread it meant to be eaten not deified. To me, bread represents the ordinary in this vignette, something to be used and appreciated but not in spite of its utility.

Pragmatism sounds a lot like this to me—we should think of things in relation to how they work for us and exist to us. James says, “[t]o attain perfect clearness in our thoughts of an object, then, we need only consider what conceivable effects of a practical kind the object may involve—what sensations we are to expect from it, and what reactions we must prepare.” What is the point of bread or something ordinary if we never think of it in terms of us and our lives?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Naming of Them

I have always been particularly in love with the section of this essay called "The Naming of Them," in which Thoreau invites "the sunrise and the sunset, the rainbow and the autumn woods and the wild- flowers, and the woodpecker and the purple finch and the squirrel and the jay and the butterfly, the November traveler and the truant boy" to join "us" (author and reader, presumably) in the act of naming the wild apples. On the one hand, he's clearly invoking Genesis, and Adam's naming of plants and animals ("And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name" Genesis 2:19), but he's complicating it in a few ways - first by turning this naming ritual into a christening, which makes the apples human, and second, by granting to non-human entities the ("quintessentially human")  power to name. I won't get into the names themselves, except to note that they are a wonderful blend of irony and sincerity, caught between a parody of science and its rage for nomenclature and an earnest desire to honor the wild apples with right-naming. This opening, though, suggests the reflexivity of the human/apple relationship as traced in the essay, as well as the complexity of Thoreau's view of language.

Caption Contest!!



five complete sets of DNA

I'm not sure what the prompt is for this DWP, but looking at the other ones already up, I'm assuming we are to write on our opinions about the reading.
Have you ever read Botany of Desire?  It's a book looking at four different plants that have influenced and been influenced by humans.  The first chapter is on apples and how Micheal Pollen, the author, goes across the country looking for the original path apples took across the U.S. and searching for apples that have been chosen for flavor, rather than the sweetness and shippability that supermarket providers look for.  Anyways, I think the most interesting thing I learned about apples from the entire section of the book is that apples have five sets of genes.  It's impossible to get the exact same apple tree from an offspring with self-pollination, much less from cross pollination (ten sets of genetics).
I'm drawn from this topic back to... I believe it was Emerson or maybe Wordsworth who said that all nature can be used as a metaphor for human nature.  I think that 'Wild Apples' is the opposite idea however.  Apples are not a symbol for humanity, but rather nature in the form of all that opposes humans.  On 295, it talks about how when a cruel person thinks of apples as nothing more than just a crop or money then the apples are heavy and hard too pull, as if they fight their very existence.  There are stories of animals starving themselves to death or crashing into walls to kill themselves if they are being farmed and suffer for it.  This occurs everywhere between cattle being killed in stressful situations release hormones that make them taste less pleasant, bears farmed for bile have mauled their cubs to keep them from suffering when they grow up, plants of the exact same type all grown together will be increasingly vulnerable to animals and diseases.  Nature fights simplification and being used without any regard to the treatment given to the used.  Unlike humans, nature will change itself to survive (see above passage about genetics).  It never produces the same species twice, as there must be a reason it didn't survive in the first place and was therefore defective.  Humans change the world around them, feeling that we are incapable of being less than perfect as we are.  True, when we look at the dominant specie of the planet, the argument can be made that we have won the battle, but I don't think that we have or ever will.  There will still be seeds dropped on bridges in their own little fertilizer bird poop and hardy new apples to grow in the barrenest of places, miniature nature bombs that eat through our toughest metals and strongest pesticides.  'Wild Apples' is about realizing that we are not in control of the Earth, but rather tied in a way that will soon result in our loss.  The best opinion is to set down the spray guns and see that only fools declare war on nature.

Apples are fascinating.

Thorough Thoreau

I love Thoreau's thorough discussion of both the state and characteristics of wild apples according to each month and season. In addition, I feel that he views apples as symbolic, both as a sign and warning of the approaching season, as well as remembrance of the season that preceded it. For example, he writes, "By the middle of July, green apples are so large as to remind us of coddling, and of the autumn" (294), implying that both the size and color of the apples reveal that summer is ending and autumn is rapidly approaching. I can only imagine the careful observation it takes to make such a notion! Later, he writes that apples "will have some red stains, commemorating the mornings and evenings it has witnessed; some dark and rusty blotches, in memory of the clouds and foggy, mildewy days that have passed over it; and a spacious field of green reflecting the general face of nature, - green even as the fields; or a yellow ground, which implies a milder flavor, - yellow as the harvest, or russet as the hills" (314). I'm fascinated by Thoreau's interpretation of apples' appearances in this way. Talk about performativity! So often individuals forget - or at least neglect the thought of - where their food comes from. Thoreau's detail of every possible day and weather condition apples endure as they grow and ripen in an orchard forces the reader to consider why apples appear in their sweet, crisp state as they do. Thoreau pays attention to every possible detail of a wild apple, and considers every detail handsome, or at least "redeeming." His thoroughness to apples instills a sense of appreciation, bewilderment, and desire to be attentive in his readers, or at least myself.

Ethereal apples

I paid particular attention to Thoreau’s discussion of man’s interference with the apples and his lack of importance to them in many respects. I really like the passage where he talks about the man selecting apples to sell: “He turns a specked one over many times before he leaves it out. If I were to tell what is passing in my mind, I should say that everyone was specked which he had handled; for he rubs off all the bloom, and those fugacious ethereal qualities leave it.” To Thoreau, the “man-handling” of the apple ruins its beauty, not the possible specks or imperfections. The argument about man’s destruction of nature simply by interfering is one I can’t say I agree with. To me, this argument savors strongly of inherent beauty in nature idea and to say that humans ruin it is, in my opinion, an exaggeration. Do humans sometimes trample and destroy? Yes, of course we do but humans also love and appreciate nature and long to be a part of it. Assuming that nature is only beautiful or good in relation to us is silly, but we only have our eyes to see things through and we will inevitable be colored by that truth. On the other hand, saying nature only matters completely removed from us makes no sense.

Heavenly Apples?

I found the different ways Thoreau described apples as beings to be interesting. First, he personifies them (in a rather creepy way, actually). He says of the apples that in July "the little ones... fall stillborn." Not only is he giving the apples human traits, but he is explaining how their existence is similar the human life span.  A couple pages later he says that apples give off a "stream of their evanescent and celestial qualities" (296). So now they are at higher level of beings. I guess they are god-like now? Which I suppose could connect to the Fruit of Knowledge, which Thoreau mentions briefly in the beginning of his essay. Still, I am not sure why he sees apples as being celestial. What makes them above the level of people? Any ideas?

I Now Want a Wild Apple

I must begin my post by saying how much respect I have for Thoreau after reading "Wild Apples." Not everyone could write 30 pages about a topic as simple as apples and actually make it fairly interesting to read. I really liked how he broke everything down by time, talking about the differences in the apples depending on the month. I especially liked when he was talking about apples later in the season, in October and November and about how sharp their flavors become.

"To appreciate the wild and sharp flavors of these October fruits, it is necessary that you be breathing the sharp October or November air. The outdoor air and exercise which the walker gets give a different tone to his palate, and he craves a fruit which the sedentary would call harsh and crabbed. They must be eaten in the fields, when your system is all aglow with exercise, when the frosty weather nips your fingers, the wind rattles the bare boughs or rustles the few remaining leaves, and the jay is heard screaming around. What is sour in the house a bracing walk makes sweet. Some of these apples might be labeled, 'To be eaten in the wind.'"

I think my favorite line in that paragraph is "What is sour in the house a bracing walk makes sweet," because it is absolutely true. When I am sitting around my house or my dorm room in early November, if I'm going to get a snack, it is very likely going to be something chocolaty, or salty, or just not-particularly-good-for-you because an apple just wouldn't be as good that time of year. However, when I'm walking around outside, if I pass an apple orchard and find those few apples that are still thriving on their branch, the thought of biting into that peel and tasting those sharp juices sting my tongue would make my mouth water. Maybe it's just me, but there's something about picking an apple off of a tree that is more appetizing than picking one up from the grocery store, no matter what time of year it is. 

"There is no malice, only some malic acid." Seriously, Thoreau?

If Emerson speaks only in topic sentences, then Thoreau speaks only in supporting details. Note: I do not mean this as an insult! But where I found myself searching out metaphors to ground myself in Emerson's work, in "Wild Apples" I had to search for explicit relation to humanity-- lines like "...but the apple emulates man's independence and enterprise." It seems while Emerson is concerned with nature as a metaphor for the human mind, Thoreau's writing is more biocentric; he lets himself become fascinated by nature in and of itself. "Let your condiments be in the condition of your senses. To appreciate the flavor of these wild apples requires vigorous and healthy senses..." says Thoreau, while Emerson says, "So much only of life as I know by experience, so much of the wilderness I have vanquished and planted, or so far have I extended my being, my dominion." Now, I'm not well read in either Thoreau or Emerson, so I don't mean to speak in generalizations, but it seems to me Emerson preaches alignment with nature for the benefit of the mind ("my being, my dominion"), while Thoreau sees unity with nature as being, among other things, an end in itself ("to appreciate the flavor of these wild apples").

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Craving a fresh fall apple!

        I really enjoyed reading Thoreau’s Wild Apples.  I like how it make me think about my personal relationship with apples and eating them in the fall.  One of my favorite quotes that I related to the most was “To appreciate the wild and sharp flavors of these October fruits, it is necessary that you be breathing the sharp October or November air” (pg. 321).  I liked this quote, first of all because I like how Thoreau described the October and November air as being sharp because that is exactly how it is in New England in the fall; sharp and crisp.  I also enjoy this quote because it reminds me of own experiences with eating apples in the fall compared to other months.  I eat so many fresh apples in the fall from orchards, because that is when they are the best, opposed to purchasing them in the winter from a grocery store.  
When reading this, I took a special notice at the different section headings.  They read: The History of the Apple Tree, The Wild Apple Tree, The Crab, How The Wild Apple Grows, Their Beauty and so on.  I noticed this titles because they reminded me of Emerson’s Nature Address and the different categories he broke he address up in.  In Wild Apples, Thoreau talks ver much about the wild apple and it’s interactions with nature, growing and the effects the different seasons have on it.  This idea also reminded me a lot of Emerson’s Nature Address and his ideas about nature.  Over all, I enjoyed this reading and love how it got me to think how I react with an apple; a simple form of nature.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

contradiction and confusion

First I want to apologize for posting this late, I totally forgot that you asked us to post it by 5 until I looked at my agenda notebook (obviously after the fact).
As we have mentioned in class the last few times we talked Emerson in class, he often writes in all topic sentences.  This technique of often jumping form idea to idea (all in one paragraph) is what I believe makes it harder for me to understand his work.  An example of this would be in the second paragraph.  Emerson starts by talking about life and who we think we know what will happen in our life.  He then moves on to talk about about the moon and finishes with romantic ships in the horizon.  Paragraph’s written like this are very common for Emerson, but usually they flow a little more smoothly.  When reading this, I was completely caught off guard and didn’t really know what to make of it.  Mostly I felt this way because it was the second paragraph to the essay and I had not really established the points that Emerson  would be mentioning.  
Another thing that Emerson did in this essay was, on numerous accounts, contradict what he previously mentioned about books in The American Scholar.  An example of this would on the bottom of the 9th page: “I think I will never read any but the commonest books, -- the Bible, Homer, Dante, Shakespeare and Milton”.  This is a contradiction because he previously mentioned in Experience that man should not rely on the information of one but read as many as possible.  That relates to his idea from The American Scholar because Emerson talks about the importance of creating different books for different generations--but if you only read a handful you are not getting the variety of each generation.  Another sentence in which he contradicted himself was on page 8 where he write “Life in not intellectual or critical, but sturdy”.  This may be the case with experiences with life but it made me want to ask “if life is not intellectual then why did you write an entire essay on being a scholar”?

On being late and lonely...

There is something in the act of reading that will never allow me to feel alone. I cannot divorce the words from their speaker; when I take some thought from a book or essay, I cannot be deluded into thinking it is separate from its author. To hell with Barthes, I say-- there is always something of the speaker in his words. "I am a fragment," Emerson says, "and this is a fragment of me."

And so there is a tension in "Experience" that provokes the combative in me. In certain scattered moments, Emerson announces that the very core of man is and will forever be apart:  "There will be the same gulf between every me and thee, as between the original and the picture." "Two human beings are like globes, which can touch only in a point, and, whilst they remain in contact, all other points of each of the spheres are inert..." "How long before our masquerade will end its noise of tambourines, laughter, and shouting, as we shall find it was a solitary performance?" Emerson! I want to shout. I am here with you in this thought! We are reader and writer united for at least this moment, and you would have me believe I am here alone? I cannot even believe it is only at a solitary point that we meet. For the days and weeks after I read a provoking text, I feel that I carry it with me in every point of my "sphericity."

The phenomenon of the literary "I" is enough to convince me of our unity. "All I know is reception; I am and I have: but I do not get, and when I have fancied I had gotten anything, I found I did not." When I follow this closely enough, I am aligned with Emerson's "I"; it is not solely him or me, but whosoever hears this thought that lives in "I." And further, whenever Emerson speaks of loneliness or apartness, he does not use "I"-- he uses "we." I believe Emerson intends for this contradiction-- the contradiction between this "we" and its "aloneness"-- and in it I think he finds some way to reconcile the competing ideas of individuality and shared human spirit (Emerson's "One Man").

Puppies: More important than Homework

Well, reading this essay was certainly an “Experience” in itself. I surprisingly did not feel like I was struggling as much with Emerson’s meaning as I was with the way I felt when I read his words. From one paragraph to the next, or sometimes even within the same paragraph, he would have me feeling so emotionally charged or volatile that at times I felt I needed to set it aside or go back and read over. I think this is part of the performativity of his essay. At times his writing was so dark and despairing I couldn’t help but flood the margins of my page with things like “NO! L” and “Don’t despair Emoson.” In the beginning I simultaneously believed that he believed every word he was saying, speaking at times with such vehemence, and at others thought that all he wrote was a contradiction of the great soul that resides within him. I guess that is the polarity of humanity he is working to bring out within us. To show that two opposites can at times be true. It is an uncomfortable place to be and it all depends on what we WANT to believe. It is both a sorrow and a joy when Emerson belittles our greatest pains and triumphs, handing over the blame of our foibles as well as the credit of our victories to a greater and untouchable power. This is debatable, but I believe though at times Emerson seems to be making bold statements in one way or another, he means to create balance in all and thus only means them in a degree to show the multiplicity of Nature, Man, Reality, Truth and All. The passage that struck me to violently to the soul were these three lines: “That immobility and absence of elasticity which we find in the art, we find with more pain in the artist. There is no power of expansion in men. Our friends early appear to us as representatives of certain ideas, which they never pass or exceed.”  Here I feel as though Emerson is striking through the veil, right into the core of my eternal soul. I believe so deeply in the mutability of not just mankind, but man on an individual level, and have seen evidence of this daily in my own life and ability to change and grow. However, I think as definitively as he writes, he only means some of what is written. I believe there is a part of each human being that does not grow, that does not change, because to disrupt it would compromise our integrity and make us unstable within our own individual worlds. But it’s like Emerson says in the passage just before this when he mentions the child growing tired of a story, “Because thou wert born to a whole, and this story is a particular. The reason of the pain this discovery causes us is the plain of tragedy which murmurs from it in regard to persons, to friendship and love.” People are simultaneously incredibly fragile and resilient beings, and while these suggestions frighten and disgust us, we know that we are capable of dealing with great tragedy and starting anew. We simultaneously long for variety but desperately cling to anything stable we can find. “Our love of the real draws us to permanence, but the health of body consists in circulation and sanity of mind in variety of facility of association. We need change of objects.” At times it makes us feel empty, this constant draw between two truths, that we can never really KNOW anything, and so we seek to stake our claim in what we can.  We become creatures of habit, conformists, desperately trying to maintain SOME kind of status quo… it is our nature, and yet also against our nature. But as the essay progresses it picks up, becomes while not less troubling, lighter, easier to bare somehow ending on “Never mind the ridicule, never mind the defeat: up again, old heart! It seems to say, there is victory yet for all justice; and the true romance which the world exists to realize, will be the transformation of genius into practical power.” <3

Mood affects perception

“Dream delivers us to dream, and there is no end to illusion. Life is a train of moods like a string of beads, and as we pass through them, they prove to be many colored lenses which paint the world their own hue, and each shows only what lies in its focus. From the mountain you see the mountain. We animate what we can, and we see only what we animate. Nature and books belong to the eyes that see them. It depends on the mood of the man, whether he shall see the sunset or the fine poem.”

I feel as though in this passage, Emerson is trying to impart to me that the world is illusory completely in the sense of perception and that perception is based on mood. First, he decrees that “there is no end to illusion”. On some level, everything we see is false and untrue but only because of how we look at it with certain moods. Because he says that the our mood affects our perception, our take on one specific thing could be completely different from one day to another. When we pass through this “string of beads” of emotions, a mountain that was once considered beautiful and inspiring could later seem cold, unfeeling or dangerous and insurmountable. This is one place where I definitely felt as though I understood and agreed with Emerson. I think everyone has experiences where their opinion or perception of something changed based on their mood.

"Everything good is on the highway."

My idea about "Experience" is really rather simple -- it's wonderfully and frustratingly inconsistent, both in its tone and in its content, moving from mood to mood ("our moods do not believe in each other," Emerson says in "Circles" -- an insight that I'm fairly sure Heidegger borrows in his own philosophy of moods). There is, in the early part of the essay especially, a dark, uncomfortable feeling of impermanence and flux, best illustrated by his description of his son's death and by the wonderful phrase about "the evanescence and lubricity of all objects." Later, though, though this sense of the slipperiness of things remains, Emerson's mood changes, and what was "the most unhandsome part of our condition" becomes cause for celebration -- becomes "The miracle of life which will not be expounded, but will remain a miracle." This shift pretty perfectly performs Emerson's idea that experience is ultimately a flux, an unarrestable stream, that "all things swim and glitter."

Patience is a Virtue

"I know that the world I converse with in the city and in the farms, is not the world I think. I observe that difference and shall observe it. One day, I shall know the value and law of this discrepance. But I have not found that much was gained by manipular attempts to realize the world of thought. Many eager persons successively make an experiment in this way, and make themselves ridiculous. They acquire democratic manners, they foam at the mouth, they hate and deny. Worse, I observe, that, in the history of mankind, there is never a solitary example of success, — taking their own tests of success. I say this polemically, or in reply to the inquiry, why not realize your world? But far be from me the despair which prejudges the law by a paltry empiricism, — since there never was a right endeavor, but it succeeded. Patience and patience, we shall win at the last. We must be very suspicious of the deceptions of the element of time. It takes a good deal of time to eat or to sleep, or to earn a hundred dollars, and a very little time to entertain a hope and an insight which becomes the light of our life. We dress our garden, eat our dinners, discuss the household with our wives, and these things make no impression, are forgotten next week; but in the solitude to which every man is always returning, he has a sanity and revelations, which in his passage into new worlds he will carry with him. Never mind the ridicule, never mind the defeat: up again, old heart! — it seems to say, — there is victory yet for all justice; and the true romance which the world exists to realize, will be the transformation of genius into practical power."

For me, personally, Emerson’s best performance with his text is the final paragraph of “Experience.” Throughout the essay he lures his readers in with his thoughts and arguments, and in fact, there were many passages that struck me. The way in which he elaborates his text with counterarguments and examples forces his readers to consider his notions, relate them to their own experiences, and form their own opinions based on what they read. This just goes back to what it means to be a true scholar, and Emerson’s views on using books and others’ thoughts not as a way of life, but as a springboard for one’s own inspiration. In this final paragraph, it seems to me that Emerson, though clearly willing to tell the world his thoughts, admits that he does not actually know the value of life as he thinks he knows it. While Emerson himself is on a quest to understand the “world of thought,” he recognizes that only patience and time will reveal all. Throughout this text, Emerson pulls us along, intriguing us with his seemingly all-knowing insights and answers. Just then, in the very last paragraph of his essay, he reveals himself as ordinary. He seems to relate himself to regular people, those who “dress our garden, eat our dinners, discuss the household with our wives, and these things make no impression, are forgotten next week.” However, he goes on to say, “But in the solitude to which every man is still returning, he has a sanity and revelations, which in his passage into new worlds he will carry with him.” Here, Emerson reminds his readers that philosophers are humans, too. We all must go through the monotony of daily life paying little or no attention to tasks such as those aforementioned. However, we all return to our thoughts and are able to dwell on them no matter how much time has passed since last doing so. It is an intrinsic part of human nature to attempt to answer questions. Emerson, a great philosopher, seems to be admitting here that he must remember to surrender himself to the power of time, for it is only time that will reveal the answers of itself. He says, “I know that the world I converse with in the city and in the farms, is not the world I think…. One day, I shall know the value and law of this discrepance.” For now all he can do is be patient and simply pose beliefs and opinions on what appears to be true based on his experiences right now; he cannot manipulate his way through life to seek answers or truth or to alter or predict experiences, which is a timeless lesson, or a source of inspiration, for all of us.