Kenneth Smith

A Quote by Kenneth Smith on philosophy, values, understanding, moralizing, intelligence, thinking, modernity, and feelings

I subscribe to Hellenic existential values, which is to say, nothing is truly "understood" in any penetrating or rational way until it has been traced back to its implications for ultimate values. Moralizing in the most profound and synoptic way should be the primary challenge for modern philosophers, a way of recovering the kind of articulated value-intelligence that ancient culture exercised. For most moderns there are no such things as foundational values or principles; there are only feelings, vagrant or idiosyncratic emotionalisms. To "think" in a merely abstract or conceptualizing way, free of the tasks of connoisseurial and spiritual evaluation, is in truth already a form of delusionality just in itself: it is the error that Kant describes of a bird realizing how much resistance the wind causes for it, and imagining that if only it were in empty space it could fly ever so much better. Hegel's understanding of the task of philosophy "in medias res"--having to come to see and understand not in a hypothetical vacuum or laboratory conditions in vitro but amidst the turbulence and conflicts of actual historical existence--is the only ultimately sane, rational, and humanly responsible method.

Kenneth Smith

Contributed by: Dave

A Quote by Kenneth Smith on philosophy, scientism, objectivity, academia, reality, thinking, context, polemics, modernity, relativism, and perspectivalism

It's quite easy to imagine one grasps the essential outlines of an issue once one has cleared away all the emotional and moral turbulence that interfere with thinking about it--but in those greenhouse-conditions one is not truly thinking about reality as it actually is. Modern "academic" or "scholarly" philosophy is the victim of the delusionality of "scientism" or "objectivity," of thinking supposing that the controversiality or polemicality of our lives can be effectively purged out of things. We can cosmeticize it, depress its strife and tension with a facade of pseudo-neutralized terms; but even the most meager forms of insight suffice to reveal that this objectivity is mere facade. Modern culture is becalmed in a Sargasso Sea of sophisticated relativism, a mentality that hasn't got a clue what to do about perspectival variations and rationalizations from one mind to another. If there isn't a consensual community about what is right or good, then bourgeois society can only seek forms of mediation or compromise or count the votes of its countless subrational idiots. To wrestle with fundamental norms and principles is not something intellectually respectable among bourgeois minds, any more than it is to make public and direct value-judgments about someone else's thinking. By default we sink into a morass of incommensurable and pathetic views.

Kenneth Smith

Contributed by: Dave

A Quote by Kenneth Smith on philosophy, thinking, modernity, culture, and argumentation

I am caught in a terrific bind of characterologically and rationally needing to think in the most comprehensive terms possible, forming a continuous system of argument with a gradient that runs from concrete to abstract, and unfortunately being caught also in a culture in which hardly anyone seems capable of applying himself to understand such a demanding form of argumentation.

Kenneth Smith

Contributed by: Dave

A Quote by Kenneth Smith on philosophy, politics, slavishness, values, delusion, and polemics

I was pleased long ago, and even moreso now, to be achieving connections between polemics and more profound forms of philosophy--partly because I agreed with Thomas Mann, that "the destiny of man in our times presents itself in the form of politics," and because I agreed with Nietzsche that mass-slavishness and nihilistic hybris were combining to form a danger of "Great Politics" the like of which the world had never seen (a prevision clearly of Nazi imperialism and nihilism), but even moreso because political culture presents everywhere a concrete profile of the actual "values" and "dysvalues" of any given society. Politics is our aggregate or collectively effective character, replete with delusions and murderous predilections for irrealities and deceptions. The state, as Plato remarked, is the soul writ large.

Kenneth Smith

Contributed by: Dave

A Quote by Kenneth Smith on philosophy, thinking, and self-mastery

A vital part of philosophizing is learning to trust one's own intuitivist intelligence, getting one's center of gravity back between one's feet.  In our culture--so outer-directed, "objective" or extraverted--this is already heresy.  This is self-mastering thinking, centered in what has been well-tested as certainties:  autarkia or self-rule.

Kenneth Smith

Contributed by: Dave

A Quote by Kenneth Smith on philosophy, academia, education, and college

It is in college that the clamps really start to come down, heavy-duty or professional-caliber ideologizing against radical ideas.  Even in very large departments of sociology or political science I couldn't find virtually any people who had read thinkers off the Approved list.  I was to discover over the decades that there is certainly a blacklist of sorts in philosophy as well--and the grave difficulty the 19th-century thinkers pose for the academic establishment is that all of those primary thinkers are contrarian and radical.  It isn't possible to overlook or refute them; all that can be done is deform and misrepresent their thinking, blunt it, confuse its purposes and accomplishments.  How geniuses get academicized.

Kenneth Smith

Contributed by: Dave

A Quote by Kenneth Smith on philosophy, society, and psychology

Indisputably we live in a shaped reality, an artificialism.  Most people who grasp this are thinking only at a consumer-level, of the "things" they like and need and feel impelled to acquire.  But our societal and political arrangements are just as much manipulations of game-pieces and rules as is any Atari or Sega product.  The subliminal psychology that drives people to become addicted to games, not to be able to see over the edges of their labyrinths, is transferable to any field whatsoever.

Kenneth Smith

Contributed by: Dave

A Quote by Kenneth Smith on philosophy, perspectives, and thinking

After long experience in keeping journals and annotating my readings, etc., I grew more keenly aware of my own shifts in perspectives and criteria from time to time or circumstance to circumstance or relation to relation.  Most mentalities are merely viscous, pathetically modulating from one tincture to another; I was determined to learn how to follow those little trails of snailslime in my own and others thinking.  Human psyche at most levels is definitely a sea-creature, a metamorphic or Protean sort of being; but there is a visceral core that remains constant.  How I learned to overcome idiotism or simpleminded perspectivism was by returning to what I had written over and over from several different viewpoints and strategies, assaulting what I took for granted from priorities and perspectives I had not originally thought of.  One rises in that way from monocular or naive opinion to a kind of philosophical compound-eye like Argus had in mythology.  One enables oneself already to anticipate criticisms, to defend or adapt against them or if need be go over to their vantagepoint.  Most opinionizing is houses built upon the sand; philosophical intelligence is geological intelligence about the bedrock in every region.

Kenneth Smith

Contributed by: Dave

A Quote by Kenneth Smith on philosophy and soul

Like the Feminine, or more aptly in virtue of the Feminine latent within us, we (both males and females) are more (become more) through acceding to the other, but this relation of mutuality is only possible insofar as the otherness (which is finitizing mutual repellency as manifested in distrust, self-uncertainty, anxiety) is dispelled from both sides:  there should be neither crude domination nor crude submission where "two" become or recognize that they already essentially are not-one and not-two.  This same formula by which Buddhists so anti-rationalistically and anti-banausically describe the "relation" between soul and body also applies to the relation between lover and lover, parent and child, member and community.

Kenneth Smith

Contributed by: Dave

A Quote by Kenneth Smith on philosophy, control, and analyticalism

In music virtually anyone can hear the apoplectic plight of a too-controlled and too-technically proficient artisan, an arid and mechanically perfectionist performer who lacks the cultivated and pliant soul to "give himself over" to the pathos and passion of the music's full potential; a literalistically "correct" but "soulless" performance leaves a hell of a lot to be desired, to wit, the entire feeling and meaning and organicist life or stylistic gestalt of the music.  The same thing is true of over-control or left-hemispheric modes in philosophy:  analyticalism and precisianism are grotesquely Apollonian and ultimately self-paralyzing or trivializing, and far more is to be learned from someone capable of "giving himself over" Dionysianly to what Socrates called "the rights of the question."

Kenneth Smith

Contributed by: Dave

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