Showing posts from January, 2010

Experience and Running

The French philosopher Michel Foucault writes that "experience is trying to reach a certain point in life that is as close as possible to the 'unlivable,' to that which can't be lived through. What is required is a maximum of intensity and a maximum of impossibility at the same time."

When he made this statement, it was as a response to phenomenology, which is the philosophy of experience: the sort of philosophy that looks to describe the ordinary experience of everyday life. Phenomenology is perhaps best captured by Husserl's demand to "return to the things themselves." Phenomenology as a practice of wisdom and truth thought its mission was to describe the reality of the events of ordinary life.

Running blogs can be read as rough phenomenological treatises. Their authors attempt through a variety of styles and genres such as the race report or the training plan or the setting of goals to articulate their experience of running. What makes much of this…


"In the end, one loves one's desire and not what is desired."

Nietzsche wrote this, and it is always important to remember that Nietzsche, famous as he is now, lived quite tragically in pain, depression, and quite unsure whether his books would be read or would survive. It is all too easy to go back to the authors who are now famous and believe that they believed in themselves as much as we now believe in them.

But of course, this is a myth. The meaning of life is obvious to no one, and though the name "Nietzsche" now designates an entire body of thought that has been worked over by critics, academics, and students until a variety of meanings have been extracted rather cruelly and disseminated much more broadly than Nietzsche ever imagined and surely more broadly than he would have hoped, it is also possible to imagine Friedrich alone in his study at night scribbling onto paper not out of the pursuit of profound philosophical meaning but because he was lonely an…

A Certain Sportive Dimension

Philosophy ... is not the Universe, it is not even that close trafficking with the Universe which we call living. We are not going to live things, but simply to theorize about them, to contemplate them. And to contemplate a thing implies maintaining oneself outside of it, resolved to keep a chaste distance between it and ourselves. We are attempting a theory, or what is the same thing, a system of concepts about the Universe. No less, but also no more. To find those concepts which, when set in a certain order, allow us to say how much it seems to us there is, or what the Universe is. We are not attempting anything tremendous. Although philosophic problems, being fundamental, have about them something of pathos, philosophy itself is not pathetic. It is more like a pleasant exercise, a favorite occupation. It is simply a matter of marrying our concepts one with another, like pieces in a picture puzzle. I would rather put it this way than to recommend philosophy with qualifications full …