Fermented Ph.D. Dump: "How Might One Live?" as a Critical Philosophical Question

in Education2 months ago

A Tactical Recap to the Fermented Ph.D. Dump

Dump I | Dump II | Dump III

This is the fourth Ph.D. dump I am doing, and one I am most excited about. You can read the others in the above-linked posts. I hope to write this piece as an article for a journal soon, as it is one of the more important sections of my Ph.D. How my supervisors are going to interpret it is another question. For now, I merely want to muse about it a bit and I hope that @newharvest, a fellow Deleuzian scholar, might comment on my understanding of this question, "How might one live?".

"How Might One Live?" as a Critical Philosophical Question

What is philosophy?

The above question pertaining to what philosophy is, is one with various answers. Asking what philosophy is, one might say, is a metaphilosophical question. It is a question about philosophy and not in philosophy. A philosophical question might be such as the main one in this Ph.D. dump, namely, "How might one live?" or the classical epistemological question: How is knowledge justified, or what is knowledge? My work always jumps between the two modes of doing philosophy, that is, doing philosophy and questioning philosophy at the same time.

But this question — How might one live? — is ironically both. It is at once an ethical question but also a metaphilosophical question. That is why, according to me, it is one of the central questions in philosophy and in the practicing of philosophy.

Deleuze and Guattari and Philosophy as Concept Creation

Before attempting to take apart the above question, I briefly want to introduce you to two very important philosophers or thinkers. Trying to understand their work is backbreaking work. Literally and figuratively because the books they wrote weights a ton.

In one of their thinner books, and one of the most important ones, "What is philosophy?" they write that

"philosophy is the art of forming, inventing, and fabricating concepts" (p. 2, What is philosophy?).

One might continue this line of thought and state that philosophy as concept creation is inherently experimental.

"How might one live?" and Experimenting

What vs. How

We started with the question What is philosophy? Deleuze in one of the thicker volumes, Difference and repetition (p. 247-248), tells us that what-type questions are only preliminary and gateways to more important questions such as how, hence the how in "How might one live?". But more importantly, and linked to the idea of concept creation, what-type questions are stuck in what we can call an elucidatory phase, one in which we merely explain and understand something. What is philosophy? is not experimental nor is it creating new concepts. It asks of us to explain it, to expound.

Morality vs. Ethics

A second but even more important distinction to make before we attempt to break down the question of "How might one live?" is between morality and ethics. There is a quote by a philosopher explaining one of Deleuze's books, Brent Adkins, that explains it in almost poetic beauty. I want to shout this quote from the top of the philosophy building for all my students. It is just such a wonderful quote. I want to place it here in full so that you might appreciate its beauty:

"What is the difference between ethics and morality? A morality functions according to principle, while an ethics functions according to experimentation. A morality presupposes a discontinuity between principle and action, while an ethics presupposes a continuity of action and character. A morality tells one what one ought to do, while an ethics asks what one might do." (Adkins, Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus: A Critical Introduction and Guide, p.96)

Ethics are about experimentation, of concept creation, of finding new ways of being, of seeing the world differently. Morality is about making things fixed, rigid, it struggles with difference and wants to view the world through an already selected lens.

Postscriptum, or A Tactical Deferral

I wanted to break down the question today, but as usual, my word ran out. Or, this post will be three times longer if I now start to break down the question. I think the above-mentioned topics are nice for discussion, and one of the most important gateways into trying to grapple with how to practice philosophy.

For now, I hope I gave you something to ponder about. You might have thought about things in this light, or this might be the first time you hear about them. I hope that we might discuss this in the comments!

(The photographs are my own, and the writing is also my own unless stated and quoted otherwise.)


Wow very deep

Thank you so much! The second part of this post will hopefully be up during this week!


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At first glance, this is really a dense piece of work! I am looking forward to really digging in as soon as I'm back home from a trip I'm currently on. More substantial comments to follow soon!!

The next post will actually contain most of the substantial stuff, that is, it will deal with each unit separately. Thank you!