I think it's pretty clear to all of us that our perception of reality is organized at least to some extent by the language we have inherited. This language structures and organizes the way we encounter the world. One thing that I appreciate about philosophy--which Deleuze defined as "the creation of concepts"--is that it takes as its task the critical reorganization of our habits of perceiving. When done well, this reorganization is in the service of better habits of living.
By this definition a guy like Einstein would be a natural philosopher. By rigorously describing the concept of relativity and introducing it into language, he opened up new orders of perception. We were able to understand the universe in a totally different way. This reorganization of our understanding of the universe literally gave us a new universe--new possibilities for technology, new avenues of control, new paths of exploration. It's important to remember, though, that in order for Einstein to make his discoveries, a number of material conditions had to be in place: namely an experimental apparatus delicate enough to find the limits of the Newtonian world view.
Another example would be W.E.B. Dubois. His concept of the double-vision of racial consciousness also opened up new avenues of racial criticism. It described in language that was available to academics and other fairly powerful folks the perspective of living in a racial minority. Dubois was also perfectly positioned in culture to make this point. He had a mainstream education and knew how to express himself in the language of the dominant culture. But he also had access to the world of black experience, and he worked from within the dominant philosophical position to open angles onto this other universe, just as Einstein also couched his explanation of relativity by reference to foundational Newtonian physics.
These two examples show us that the relevant question with respect to the relationship between human consciousness and the shape of the universe is not the Cartesian question of whether our mind truly grasps reality. Or whether the subjective self or the objective world is more Real with a capital R. The more important questions are the smaller ones. How do our current habits of consciousness shape and delimit our perception? What sort of experiences make it possible to reorganize those habits? And how can we develop and maintain the habit of critically reacting to the blindnesses and gaps that are a necessary feature of intelligent categorization of the world in which we live?
The word "philosophy" describes the general habit of reconstructing the categories and ways of thinking that structure our interactions with the world. To take up the task of philosophy explicitly is to work consciously on behalf of keeping this critical habit alive, both in ourselves and in our culture.
The last 9 months I've learned a lot about how to run high mileage--its benefits and its drawbacks. You could describe the last three years of my training life as one of trying to figure out how to run 100 plus miles per week.
It seems easy, right--you just go out the door and average 14 miles a day.
But the problem of course is that training only works if you are well-trained enough to absorb it. Although I've been running on and off for 20 (gulp!) years, these last 3 years were really my first attempt to push the envelope of the volume of miles that I've run. Even in college, I would never run much more than 65 miles per week for an extended period.
So, over the last three years, more often than not, I've run too much too quickly, and in the wrong ways. This is the primary reason that it took me so long to improve on my first real marathon attempt. I would have moments where the miles would really work well for me, and I would do things in training that I never could ha…
Runners are generally creatures of habit. We have our standard loop, our daily schedule, and we stick to it more or less. Though they always sounds nice in theory, runners know that exploratory runs in new directions or in different cities are fundamentally disruptive to the training schedule. We prefer to know every inch of our path; it makes getting around it easier mentally. Our hardest workouts are done on the most uniform surface possible -- a 400m oval, which in its simplicity and uniform nature is a striking metaphor for the habitual nature of the runner's activity.
The deeper the runner gets into heavy training, the more essential habit becomes. When the body begins to resist the miles, when the legs feel heavy, or the brain fogs from fatigue, the easiest thing to do is what one did yesterday -- hit the standard loop. We have run it so many times that it almost literally runs itself. We are responsible for a minute or two of effort, but once out the door and on the loop, t…
"...if an unusual necessity forces us to press onward, a surprising thing occurs. The fatigue gets worse up to a certain critical point, when gradually or suddenly it passes away, and we are fresher than before. We have evidently tapped a level of new energy, masked until then by the fatigue-obstacle usually obeyed. There may be layer after layer of this experience. A third and a fourth "wind" may supervene. Mental activity shows the phenomenon as well as physical, and in exceptional cases we may find, beyond the very extremity of fatigue-distress, amounts of ease and power that we never dreamed ourselves to own, — sources of strength habitually not taxed at all, because habitually we never push through the obstruction, never pass those early critical points." --William James, "The Energies of Men"
Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange th…