4.12.2010

Ontology as First Philosophy

Today's article in the New York Times actually isn't very surprising: psychedelics like hallucinogenic mushrooms can improve your life, especially if you're depressed. The interesting part is just how clearly one of the doctors running the latest rounds of tests frames the issue:
...an improved outlook on life after an experience in which the boundaries between the self and others disappear.
Tat Tvam Asi. The doctor quoted above continued, saying,
The subjects’ reports mirrored so closely the accounts of religious mystical experiences... that it seems likely the human brain is wired to undergo these “unitive” experiences, perhaps because of some evolutionary advantage.
I know I beat this drum incessantly, but I so would like to not be the only one I know who has had this experience. Whether by drugs or yoga or prayer or the dialectic -- there are more things on heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy (or "theory").

Anyway, read the article. Then read my post tomorrow (or soon) where I give you a list of ten books that are derived from this "unitive" experience--books that I think most academics haven't read--in case you're interested in chasing this supposed dangling carrot, this alleged snake's-own-tail.

Even if you hate the idea of seeking a Truth that you don't believe exists, I hope you can understand why some people seem unwilling to budge on this issue of "what comes first, the ontology or the ethics?"

Isn't it funny?--I do (I really do!) understand that it's of no use to try to "lure" someone into a curiosity which I believe to be the only prerequisite to eventually experiencing the unitive state. I personally, by experience, understand (!!!) Wittgenstein's, "For an answer which cannot be expressed the question too cannot be expressed." And still I try to express the question--or even more tactfully, to get my few readers to express the question. Absurd.

If a blogger writes in a forest with no one around to hear...

3 comments:

Insignificant Wrangler said...

Are you endorsing ontology? Because it seems that you are seeking something beyond the bounds of Being. That would transcend Being. That would transcend ontology in any sense I have ever heard it.

Wouldn't that, the encounter with an Other beyond the bounds of Being be the primary grounds for thinking Being?

Wouldn't ethics, then, be considered first philosophy?

Casey said...

I don't even understand the phrase "beyond the bounds of being," Santos. I'm not talking about anything like unicorns or bearded-giants on clouds, though. What I'm talking about is "simply" a change in perception. What you think you see--even right now: this computer, your hands, the scroll bar, whatever--is, in a certain way, what actually exists. But the unitive experience allows you to see that all of that has its place in a "Uni-verse."

Nothing external changes. So what I'm talking about is arguing with what I take to be most of my peers' perception of reality. You seem insistent on terms like "Self" and "Other," and I'm telling you that, in a certain state--a state I experienced once for a few hours--there's quite literally no distinguishing between "You" and "I."

And that's the "hymn of the dialectic," "the kingdom of heaven," and "enlightenment," and anything else... of course, if that experience stays, it's problematic. It's, well, schizophrenia maybe. But if one "goes through" it, as the article linked suggests, it can be permanently life-changing.

But to re-answer briefly (since I wandered): I'm not talking about "transcending" Being. I'm talking about seeing it correctly.

Casey said...

(Thanks for the comment, though -- that was an important point of clarification!)