A Breaking Bad related thought (I’m up to the start of season three), like there’s not enough of that online already. No spoilers.
What I find particularly unsettling about the show is that Walter becomes bad. We are shown how he loses his own integrity with a thousand little choices. There are some significant moments, forks in the road, but it is never simply a given. He makes choices, and in doing so, loses himself. So when watching the process unfold we are forced to think about how so it is with us. We can gain or lose ourselves. We are not guaranteed to be “good people” just because that is the image we prefer to have of ourselves, or to show to others.
In this system, I am of the opinion that it is the distorted people who are healthy, because even if they feel helpless, they at least know what the right direction should be and do not change their pursuit. On the other hand, the people who feel at home in the system, like a fish in water, are sick, because their reliance on it has already made them numb to the point that they submit to it completely. And they become even more conceited when they succeed in it, skyrocketing up through the ranks. Perhaps no one can state clearly what a good system is, but everyone is able to sense when a system is bad — and the current system is a terrible mess of a system. Some people will say, if you cannot stand it, you can choose to leave, right? It seems like this, but I believe that the reason many people like me came to CCTV was not for money or status, but rather to realize their own ideals. I had decided that this would be a life-long value when I was still a reporter with a salary of only 4,000 RMB per month. I accepted the firing without having talks [with them] because I did not want lower my head and compromise for the sake of survival. What would come out of compromising myself and what would be the significance of it? To continue the agony of having to submit and the reality that cannot be altered for the sake of the position and the income?
It is to say that the whole point of the humanities is that we should be working together to make sure more opinions are more thoughtfully expressed, read, and promoted. Instead, the whole culture has become a snobfest, a way for some professors to play pundit and shirk the real duty of educating the body politic. To do their real duty would involve making mistakes publicly and taking the risks that accompany having an important part of the truth and believing one’s profession worthwhile. The ultimate risk seems to be admitting one is wrong and someone else is better. It’s very rare I see people graciously recommend others.
Finally got round to looking at Hegel, Heidegger and the Ground of History by Michael Allen Gillespie. Looks like an important text. The first chapter serves as an overall introduction to ancient, medieval and modern understandings of history. He knows his stuff.
But all this speculative knowledge is meant to serve man in his human purposes so that he may order his worldly life in the happiest possible way and shield it from disease, from every sort of evil fate, from disaster and death. It is understandable that this mythical-practical world-view and world-knowledge can give rise to much knowledge of the factual world, the world as known through scientific experience, that can later be used scientifically. But within their own framework of meaning this world-view and world-knowledge are and remain mythical and practical, and it is a mistake, a falsification of their sense, for those raised in the scientific ways of thinking created in Greece and developed in the modern period to speak of Indian and Chinese philosophy and science (astronomy, mathematics), i.e., to interpret India, Babylonia, China, in a European way.
Edmund Husserl - Philosophy and the Crisis of European Humanity (the Vienna Lecture)
But here we are some eighty years later, and we have scholars attempting to do just this, or something similar, and without any sign of them addressing themselves to Husserl in order to deny his claims. They may say that they only wish to call the mythical-practical another type of “philosophy”, in order to show respect, but as far as I can see it that can only serve to make things more confused. I am still not at all sure what to make of this idea of “world philosophy” for example. We know that “Euro-centrism” is “bad”, but what exactly is “Eurocentrism”? What meaning does this term have exactly? And in an effort to avoid it, are we not perhaps covering over important distinctions.
The interesting thing here is the people applying this term are typically scholars in the tradition of the European humanist sciences, although their focus of study are the traditions of East Asia.
It is my suspicion that one thing at work here is a kind of post-colonial guilt. But talking about philosophy arising as a particularly European phenomenon is, for me, part of understanding the period of colonialism and imperialism. It is philosophy as a form of knowledge that seeks to access what is “real” beneath “appearances”, and to systematize through ideas and their relations, which made possible the later emergence of modern techno-science and hence the industrial revolution.
What I guess I am about here is acknowledging that I belong to a tradition, and that I am far from possible of being able to rid myself of what we might call the various “prejudices” that come with it. That is what being in a tradition means. And I can’t see how calling Buddhist speculative cosmology “philosophy” helps our understanding from within the tradition of philosophy these days generally known as “academia”, and I also don’t see how it would please people from within the tradition of Buddhism either.
What I would prefer to see is an acknowledgement from within the theoretical tradition that it is a tradition, one that is in crisis, and has been in crisis for some time. Without a recognition that we are finite human beings living in a world, and that universal scholarship starts from that point, how are we to cease attempting to swallow everything human within our matrices of objective knowledge? It is not about subjugating theoretical thinking to some given practical goal, for that would also destroy it. But there is a dire need for it to turn its eye back upon itself, such as attempted for example in Nietzsche’s On the Use and Abuse of History for Life. Who are we? What are we doing?
Oh dear. We have gone a little deep into the rabbit hole. What was this post about again?