After my "transperspectival masturbation" phase of being a "niche internet micro celebrity," I have become fatigued with sensing all the different philosophical perspectives active on the internet. I have also become attention-shy, not wanting to have more eyeballs on my (second) self. Instead, I am now focusing on a "wisdom commons," a place that makes wisdom more common, and I am more interested in private and intimate experiments. Inquiry is a fundamental practice in establishing and operating a wisdom commons.
Inquiry, or philosophical inquiry, is the practice of doing philosophy. It is a practice that weaves between the theoretical and practical, always starting with the personal, what is salient in the here and now. Inquiry is the practice needed for navigating one's life well.
Philosophical inquiry can happen in three ways:
Inquiry with one’s self,
Inquiry with another,
Inquiry with others, or “the others.”
The first form happens in journaling. The second form occurs with someone else in conversation, ideally, a friend of virtue or perhaps a coach or psychotherapist. The third form is gradually happening in "we spaces," aka "intersubjective meditation practices" that heighten a sense of "we-ness" amongst a group.
Academic and para-academic philosophies have questions with theoretical inquiries, and coaches and psychotherapists have questions with practical ones. However, no discipline weaves behind the theoretical and practical with grace. The missing thing with all practical inquiries is that they need to impart reasoning skills, creating a non-philosophical culture.
We are surrounded by "living arguments," which are like entities we are in a relationship with, influencing us in unforeseen ways, and learning how to reason allows these relationships to become seen. Academic philosophy is still the best place to learn the "metalanguage" of reason. However, the incentive structure of the university has neutered professional philosophers from the spirit of philosophy, leading to unreadable books and papers. Moreover, informal logic courses are more popular with “sophists” (aka lawyers), instrumentalizing reason for something other than wisdom.
There is a good reason why many people seem unreasonable today: people are either not skilled in reason or skilled in a way that is disembodied from the spirit of philosophy. Becoming proficient in reasoning will help inquiries move away from the coaching and psychotherapy biases, which primarily focus on the values of "success" and "health," and toward the virtue of wisdom.
Reason needs new ways of expression. There are four stages of expressing reason, all insufficient for making wisdom more common:
The premodern stage marshals reason through the discipline of apologetics to defend and strengthen a person's faith in God. The modern stage advocates critical thinking, teaching reasoning through informal logic to be closer to the "Truth," understood as having one's truth claims correspond with reality. The postmodern stage has many "petite narratives,” weaponizing reason, establishing a "différend," the condition where one group's reasons cannot be expressed or understood, giving the other group power (happening today in the culture war through cancellation, censorship, and online harassment). The metamodern stage puts reason through a transperspectival lens to build bridges between "deep disagreements" for greater understanding.
We can learn things about reasoning from each of these stages. However, these stages are still beholden to modernity, biasing the mind over the body. We must step outside the modern frame and build a new relationship with reason. I would like to see a rewilding of reason, introducing the body, emotions, intuitions, and more "mystical" ways to cultivate new kinds of reasonableness.
An embodied approach to reasoning is needed to “protect one’s mind” against the culture war, psyops, and other influence operations because, with such an approach, reason’s location will not be in our minds. I envision many beautiful philosophies emerging once we reason with our bodies, allowing reason to become wild again, undomesticating us from the sickness of modernity. Rewilding philosophy will bring my favorite Stoic quote from Epictetus to life: “Don’t explain your philosophy; embody it.”
I am going to be returning to one-on-one philosophical inquiries in January. I will work intimately with only a few people. If interested, respond to this email and I can send further information. For more details, you can read this entry:
Less Foolish members have access to two active communal inquiries spaces: Collective Journaling and Discovering Wisdom. The descriptions are below and RSVP link is behind the paywall.
What is Collective Journalling? This communal practice happens via Zoom and is 90 mins, with check-ins in the chat at the beginning and an opportunity to connect with fellow journalers in breakout rooms at the end. You do not have to stay the whole time. If you are in an antisocial mood, you do not have to interact with anyone, yet you can still enjoy the coffee shop-esque communal vibe. The session concludes with an optional sharing of a passage in the chat. Most of the time is spent in silence together, individually inquiring about what matters most. A lovely group of people has formed around this practice. The practice occurs on weekdays @ 8 AM ET. RSVP link is behind the paywall.
What is Discovering Wisdom? A four-week collective inquiry experiment starting on November 9, consisting of weekly 90-120 minute sessions every Thursday at 11:30 AM Eastern Time. This experiment aims to establish a regular collective inquiry practice to complement Collective Journaling. It operates on three premises: the necessity of making wisdom more common, the role of inquiry in cultivating wisdom, and the artistic nature of the process. Each session features a participant presenting a personal, bothersome issue (an "existential knot") for group discussion, guided by a "philosophical guide" towards clarity, incorporating a one-on-one inquiry and written exercises.