-- Ambrose Bierce, "The Devil's Dictionary"
So little of what is possible actually happens.
-- Salvador Dali
Welcome to the mind bending (and expanding) world of philosophy. Alas, before we explore its virtues, let us mention its vices. For no other pursuit with the temerity to call itself a discipline is as riven and riddled with the irrational -- as is ours which so prominently (but perhaps nominally) proclaims its love of reason.
Some standards must be set, then.
I will ask the reader to be of a high mind. Imagination, skepticism and reason must reside within. So, let us build a barrier or two before we proceed to snag the horns and trip the feet of our lesser friends.
If you are so open mouthed and gullible as to have woggled and swallowed religion, then your blade is not keen enough to pry into philosophy. Go. Also, if you think the paradox of Zeno a serious conundrum, if you be so innumerate and aphysical as to think "Gosh Clark" and "Gee Lois, maybe Zeno does have a point," then your frog will never catch up to the Achilles of philosophy. Go.
If you confuse a thing for its cause, ay, that's a subtlety. Stay. Remain, please. We shall together pursue the truth.
And what shall we pursue? A flaccid damsel, buffed by dusty makeup, who has been known to lie from time? No sailors we. Or a less immodest girl, hair thick, and dark as soot, earnest as Madame Curie, but who has relied on others' stories and tales for her facts, and may be wrong from time to time? Do we eat her bread? A beguiling soothsayer, dressed in serpents and hempen robes? Never known to have been wrong, she is said to be a great lion tamer and the future her lion. Do we drink her mead and eat her meat? Yet what if the lion roars -- and gobbles her up? Is not our goal is philosophers to avoid being lambs and sheep and herd and cattle, and chattle awaiting the pleasure of what we cannot control, and be the lion instead?
Shall we pursue a flaxen haired willow a beauty, honest and chaste? Though confined may she be in the range of her experience (as never does she speak of what she has not encountered), unalloyed beauty and incontrovertible truth are hers. She has Cordelia's dowery. Shall we not pursue this? Shall we pursue what may never be wrong?
What immovably must be so? What admits no conceivable error? What shills from its shimmering flesh even the humorous and ridiculous doubt? What banishes the furies of unease and trepidation never by ridicule, never by cajolery, nor by the intimidation of Lear himself, but by the absolute force of reason? Only this. What woman shall we have then? If Helen could launch a thousand ships with her bewitching gaze, might not ours, with her sincere and pure features, launch ten thousand more?
All else is vanity. All else is puffery and poltroonery. Ought else is worth a moment of Odysseus' time. Either you have the mettle for this quest, or you wish to settle for less: some suitor ridden, wine besotted, poorly woven, muddled, midling and infirm existence -- all the while you claim Thrasymachus as a friend and Penelope your wife to be -- claims only! (you think, you hope, you surmise, you expect), as blithely you wait until the truth (in the person of Odysseus) comes home.
I would rather dog the truth. I would rather be the dog of Odysseus, suspended in doubt until certainty arrives, however long the wait.
Some people say this is not the goal of philosophy. I say they are the sycophantine tongue of flattery in King Lear's ear. Refuse your best daughter if you must; she is still your daughter. Try to satiate yourself with a saprophagous feast, but an emptiness within you will remain. A less than perfect truth is a draining soup.
Who shall scoff at the band of good souls who seek ultimate truth? Let the serpents of re-definition, these tax men of King John, rob them of the euphony of their task. Let them aim to steal every word. The nobility of the task remains.
Rip from this band the rainment of the word "philosophy," and yet their task remains. A sweet labour smells as sweet. Tax anon all their sticks, and they shall yet have a cudgel or two with which to fight. They are not lovers of words; they are lovers of truth.
Would the Sherrif or Merlin or Brutus himself tear the deep purple robe, the word "philosophy," from its rightful owner, none of the three would have acquired a shred more -- while Richard, or Arthur, or Caesar would be by no thread impoverished.
Let all raimnents fall, as did Godiva, and what she did for generosity, let us do for the truth! For, though men be content to search for less, to love and make love with less, though an entire generation will root and truffle happily for imperfection, better paths do remain. Forgotten but nobler.
Whatever be her name, she shall be my pursuit. Absolute truth. Philosophy. The Limits of Deception