Tuesday, August 9, 2011

"intellectual cleanliness" a section of an essay

These are short sections of my essay, and I am trying to get through them all very quickly so I can turn my attention on “The Writing Life,” the next essay I am working on. This section is about intellectual cleanliness, or more specifically, how to use language very carefully. It is especially important when Allists play the Game to use language in a careful and clean way, otherwise confusion and obscurity will drown us.




5. Intellectual Cleanliness




                Just as you or I could apply every adjective yet invented to correctly describe some aspect of each our own being, so that you and I are sorts of microcosms in ourselves, so too can every adjective be spiritualized and taken in a higher metaphorical sense. It was Emerson’s trope fountain to see Nature as a mirror of the human soul, and natural science an indirect psychology. With Allism we take every form, every topic fit to study, every ology, and become panologists, studying all things, and integrating them. Is it not necessary, therefore, since no material is foreign to us, and since we touch both living and dead metaphors, for us to wash our hands and practice a rigid – almost priestly – form of purity? Not that I would impose anything specific over the rest, but only that you or I must be utterly pure in our own viewpoint, for the final judge of self is self. Intellectual cleanliness means keeping separate ideas separate, means finding our key terms and defining them absolutely, and absolutely holding to them.  A metaphor is not literal; taken literally it corrupts good thinking.

All ideas can be spiritualized, in the same manner as the old religious laws as described in the Torah or the Vedas were spiritualized by the Prophets and Upanishads: what was gross and vulgar, though called "sacred" at the time, need not be practiced – we don’t need to ameliorate the bull! – but “true" sacrifice is a penitent heart; or to quote Paul, God doesn’t want us to be circumcised, but for our “heart to be circumcised.” This is a bit of legalism to redeem vulgar practices, but the Prophets have needed to be spiritualized yet again, and the gospel has been so sublimated by the pastors and preachers over the millennia, the words of Paul explained away, that we can no longer read these books with fresh eyes. Whether we’ve been to church or not, we’ve absorbed a culture that has felt the diffusion of these interpretive ideas into just about every person who shares the language. For language is a universal solvent, and ideas bleed into everything. Is it any wonder that we require intellectual as well as spiritual purity?

                You gain intellectual purity through inventing and defending a rigid technical jargon for whatever topic you wish to approach. Just as every living thing has been given a Latin name, every body part a Latin name, so too do philosophers drop the common words – love, truth, desire, God, Man – and create new terms, perhaps even coining words, to get at the ideas they are thinking and avoid wasting too much breath on explaining that “by this word I don’t mean the common meaning, but this specific meaning.” Society, with its lazy fascination with specific terms, is nevertheless ever plotting against this elitist jargon. For example, psychoanalytic terms have been so mainstreamed, so compounded with folk psychology, that whatever purity Freud and the others intended for their terms are certainly lost. Whatever an Id or an Unconscious might be, I would have to somehow forget what I know about those ideas if I wanted to study what Freud meant. Language bleeds all upon all, so we must be handy in scripting jargon in order to gain a new approach to ancient ideas.











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