Herbie Mann Comin' Home

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Philosopher's Conclusion

('exploded paragraph' entry of this last word by Jean-François Revel, in his portion of The Monk And The Philosopher):

"The West has triumphed in science, but no longer has plausible systems either of wisdom or of ethics.

The East can bring us its ethics and teach us how to live better, but these are devoid of theoretical foundations -- the only exception being perhaps in psychology, which in any case, like sociology, falls short of being a science.

If by wisdom one understands an alliance of happiness and morality, then to live according to wisdom is certainly more difficult if that wisdom is constrained within purely empirical limits, with no help from a background of metaphysics.

Yet such limits have to be accepted.

Wisdom will always be a matter of conjecture.

Ever since the Buddha and Socrates, man has struggled to turn it into a science, but in vain.

It would be vain, too, to try to derive a system of ehtics or an art of living from the kind of knowledge that has become demonstrable.

Wisdom is not based on scientific certitude, and scientific certitude does not lead to wisdom.

Both, nevertheless, exist -- forever indispensable, forever separate, forever complementary."



  1. Borrowing Williams advice for writing poetry here; I believe "No ideas but in things," with all that implies.

  2. Chris,

    . . . which is why philosophers have always been a challenge for me. They're wispy. And with rare exceptions, rhythmically ignorant.

    Williams finds his 'music' in the blunt 'American' pulse which has grown on the world with the influence of American political culture.

    He's mainly an 'image guy', relying on the sensuous 'thing' to carry the poetic day. He manages.

    Something about the asserted 'honesty' of attention to the immediate that still comes up short for me.

    The 'actual' world does carry the sharp edges of raw experience: "I'm really alive here."

    But unless that world carries a symbolic payload, anything actual would carry the same existential value.

    Rendering the only value experience itself, sensuous consciousness, or the 'value-free' interplay between exterior world and mind.

    I'm blathering? I'm locked into 'prophetic' models?