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    toying with the intellectual
gary e. davis
  January 5, 2016

I like the resonance there: Am I to dwell with that which is or that whom is?

Both, of course. Yet, odd it is to think the resonance itself: the intellectual person, the intellectual person. What is being intellectual?—being what is “intellectual”?

I happened across a discussion by an “intellectual historian” who thinks that Philosophy, unlike Intellectual History, is less interested in “understanding” than formal (“internal”) coherence and “evaluation.” But he also says, in effect, “Don’t quote me on that” (literally: “Please do not cite...without author’s permission”—evidently implying a difference between “my” [his] permission and “the author’s”; but let’s not quibble). He—Professor I.H.—evidently seeks to help draw students into his profession with his online presentation—his “frankly partisan introduction to a frequently misunderstood field,” with carefully framed (revised from earlier years) “outlines” that he doesn’t want publically evaluated without his permission.

Maybe he’s defending against something—like: Others are likely to disagree so much that he would be embarrassed. (Or I.H. thinks he’s proffering insights that others might steal—might use without his permission, because others, you know, aren’t so bright and can’t be trusted to respect Creative Commons norms and give due credit. Derrida liked to muse like this—maybe because he was married to a psychoanalyst.)

“Be nice.”

OK. But I surmise that intellectual history is facing a crisis of warm bodies, as I.H. endeavors to warrant his profession by distinguishing it from neighbor domains, beginning with mother Philosophy, after father “History of Ideas” sees the son facing something like Harold Bloom’s “anxiety of influence,” because History of Ideas saw itself to be philosophical (“O, Sophia, you were such a mother”), in a sense that Heidegger frames as metaphysicalist; so, intellectual history is called to live beyond both. I would heartily endorse outgrowing metaphysicalism. But “the end of philosophy and the task of thinking” (Heidegger, Time and Being) isn’t an overcoming of philosophy as task of thinking. Philosophy is an immortal Proteus.

I.H., having allegedly captured the difference between philosophy as such (i.e., what philosophy “almost exclusively” is) and intellectul history, differentiates it from other neighbor practices: “political thought,” “cultural history,””sociology” [not social theory?; political thought, but not political science?], and ”the discursive turn.” Apparently, I.H. anticipates a dynamic consilience that is beyond philosophy as such (and beyond sibling practices). [Therefore, budgets for the I.H. program should not be reduced? This depends on the rate of degrees granted. “Can we carve away the I. H. program into other departments eventually?,” asks the Dean. No!, says I.H.... I make this joke because I’ve lived the politics of inter-departmental competition for funds in terms of intra-departmental research program competition. The reality of academia is, well, real.] Also, his consilience led by I. H. doesn’t include psychological modes (nor conceptual artisty—no “humanities” apart from human sciences). But I thought that doing good history was an art. I know that philosophy is.

So, in conclusion, “I have tried [to render] trends...and to discuss what binds them with, and distinguishes them from, other practices” among human sciences. The commas there are good: distinguishing (living apart) is overridden by binding (living a part). There’s a dynamic of binds and distinguishings among human sciences.

I prefer a dyanmic of shared engagements and complementarities (including practices of all humanities and sciences). Anyway, identity-in-difference, in some way, is good, we both agree (presumably).

I.H. anticipates that he’s being “no doubt controversial” and wants “to stimulate further reflection and debate”; but that’s to be apart from him only by those who are granted permission to claim specifically how he’s controversially stimulating—so that he can be included in the drama, I guess. (Learn from others at every turn, I say.)

Well, my debatable reflection sees him wanting to shape a historiology (or theory of history as subdomain of the profession—or philosophy of history—both being very established complements to normal historiography) in self-differential terms of given philosophical, political, cultural, social, and discursive binds. But how can historiology (somehow autonomous vis-à-vis its sibling practices) see its belonging together in the same consilience historiologically? How is consilience to avoid a new kind of structuralism (“Unit Idea” in disguise?)? [If I sound obtuse here, it’s because I’m prospecting what’s to be later “unpacked,” as philosophers may commonly say.]

My sense of post-metaphysicalist philosophy (post post-structuralist, I think) doesn’t imply any totalizing conceptuality. (I’ll return to this later.)

So, what and who is intellectual?—not: What person am I quoting without citing? Rather: What—or how—is being intellectual? How goes being intellectual? How goes intellectuality as such, without Absolute Concepts (whatever)?

Let’s start with etymology (so called), next episode. That may evince fruits at once cultural, social, and political—ideational—at an anthropological (thus evolving) scale, which may lead to a discursivity of engagement here (later episode) that is especially philosophical (beyond philosophical anthropology in any sense that might distress a Heideggerian).

I would argue that philosophy embodies intrinsic interest in enhancing constitutive understanding, whereas historiology at best theorizes explanatory understanding, relative to given constitutions (textualized or glyphicized landscapes). Historiology may be integral to philosophy, but the former does not encompass or paradigmize philosophy, so to speak. “Intellectual history” beyond historiography is either derivatively philosophical (i.e., endeavoring to be historiological); or I.H. is futural in a way that remains to be understood by I.H. (I surmise), since progressive understanding of temporality finds primary engaging in futurity, complemented by appreciation of pasts relatively reframed.

A singular beauty of intellectual history would be ways it may integrally and uniquely play into a prospective consilience of progressive adventures in Our cultural evolving.

So, of course, let’s all party together. Yet, in the starry, starry hours, we’re all possibly drawn into a question of “Whereto, consilience of complementary engagements?” that can only be possibly understood altogether—intellectually apart as part of intellectually belonging together—philosophically.

In a sense, there’s nothing “intellectual” beyond philosophy (notwithstanding the starry night of there being anything and everything non- and post-intellectual). Philosophy itself, I venture, can be post-intellectual: Mathematical physics is paradigmatic (for doing physics), yet its paradigmicity is a normal landscape for philosophy of physics. As all paradigmicity is constitutively conceptual (albeit having reliably realistic dimensions), “How so?” is always a philosophical venture, too, in interplays—mirrorplays? (Heidegger)—of inquirial conceptualizing.

[to be continued, etymologically, conceptually, enjoyably]

    Be fair. © 2016, g. e. davis.