Category Archives: Mindfulness

Cultivating Stillness

This much is clear: In my life I am no longer part of the apparatus of creating philosophical knowledge in the academic way. That apparatus involves people relating to each other through scholarship, through institutional structures of classrooms, conferences, journal articles. From time to time I will still read academic books when I want to learn particular things. But when I do, I am not part of the inner dynamic of the assessment of those texts. I am a curious lay reader.

Is there then still a path of creating philosophical knowledge that is left to me? Yes. This is what I will dedicate myself to now. It is the path of gaining greater awareness of the world through cultivating stillness.

For the last twenty years as I sought to understand the world, I read books, I engaged in passionate debates, took and taught classes. As I was doing this, I moved in the world at great speed: moving from task to task, constantly running after the next philosophical insight, needing to respond to that objection, fine tuning this argument, defending that line of thought. My mind was like a battle ground, and my beliefs and views like fortresses I had to protect against enemy attacks. My mental energy was mainly taken up with plotting this advance or that counter attack or negotiating some truce with a new found ally.

In the process, I paid little attention to myself and to my surroundings. I assumed I could see the world and was focused instead on understanding it.

Now my aim is to cultivate the converse skill: to not worry about understanding the world, but to first simply experience it in each moment as fully as I can. To clear my mind of the battleground of ideas, and to simply be with, and in, the world.

What is the point of this? Where will be lead? Is there any knowledge to be found through this process? Only time will tell.

There Are No Shoulds

Academic moral philosophy normally deals with the question: In a world of atoms, how can there be moral “shoulds”? Where does normativity come from in a world fundamentally without norms? Standard answers: from desires, the rational will, community, God, etc.

This debate misses the essence of human flourishing. For flourishing involves seeing that there really are no shoulds at all in the fabric of the world.

Seeing this not just in the scientific sense. But seeing it in lived experience. Someone can believe that the world is made up of atoms, and affirm that the world is fundamentally non-normative. And yet at the same time they might get furious at the waiter for bringing the wrong order.

It is easy to scientifically see the world as non-normative. It takes skill and mindfulness and attention to the right things to see, in the midst of day to day life, that the world is non-normative. To see it from the inner core of our life. That is wisdom. But we don’t need a fancy word like that to talk about it. We can just say: it is merely being fully alive.

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