Commonplacing (XX through XXVI)


The first question philosophy asks, at its origin, the initial and initiatory movement of thought and individuation, indeed of everything that is or could be asserted about rationality—this first question, which is perhaps not philosophy's "first question," is not the question of being. . . . It is not about the law nor power, nor certainly about poetry. This first question that is not the first question (being generally made secondary) regards teaching.

And teaching is not simply the first question asked by philosophy; it is philosophy's practice . . .

Bernard Stiegler
"What Is Philosophy?"


We still tend to think that if we stop certain actions, an ecology will right itself and return to homeostasis. But perhaps that is not the case. Negative action might not be enough. It might take positive actions to create a new ingression. What if on the actual Earth, as on this fictional [Robinsonian] Mars, there is no ecology? What if there is only an unstable nature, a progressive selection, here on Earth, too? What if it was a matter of continuous conscious adaptation through experimental variation via the détournement of existing forms?

McKenzie Wark
Molecular Red: Theory for the Anthropocene (2015)


Most simply stated, our usual way of listening overlooks or rejects the otherness of the other. We rarely listen to what makes a story as told by another person unique, specific to that person alone; we quickly assimilate it to other stories that we have heard others tell about themselves or that we could tell about ourselves, overlooking the differences between he story being told and the ones with which we are already familiar. We rush to gloss over the differences and make the stories similar if not identical. In our haste to identify with the other, to have something in common with him, we forcibly equate stories that are often incommensurate, reducing what we are hearing to what we already know. What we find most difficult to hear is what is utterly new and different: thoughts, experiences, and emotions that are quite foreign to our own and even to any we have thus far learned about.

Bruce Fink
Fundamentals of Psychoanalytic Technique: A Lacanian Approach for Practitioners (2007)



Those of us who trace our roots back to the continent of Africa are spread across every country on earth. As we proceed upon the specific and difficult tasks of survival in the twenty-first century, we of the African Diaspora need to recognize our differences as well as our similarities. We approach our living influenced by an African mode; life as experiences to be learned from rather than merely problems to be solved. We seek what is most fruitful for all people, and less hunger for our children. But we are not the same. Particular histories have fashioned our particular weapons, particular insights. To successfully battle the many faces of institutionalized racial oppression, we must share the strengths of each other's vision as well as the weaponries born of particular experience.

Audre Lorde
"Showing Our True Colors" (1991)



Learning things on Duolingo.


[Paul Veyne's] influence on what I have written here is pervasive. As for what motivated me, it is quite simple; I would hope that in the eyes of some people it might be sufficient in itself. It was curiosity—the only kind of curiosity, in any case, that is worth acting upon with a degree of obstinacy: not the curiosity that seeks to assimilate what it is proper for one to know, but that which enables one to get free of oneself. After all, what would be the value of the passion for knowledge if it resulted only in a certain amount of knowledgeableness and not, in one way or another and to the extent possible, in the knower's straying afield of himself? There are times in life when the question of knowing if one can think differently than one thinks, and perceive differently than one sees, is absolutely necessary if one is to go on looking and reflecting at all. People will say, perhaps, that these games with oneself would better be left backstage; or, at best, that they might properly form part of those preliminary exercises that are forgotten once they have served their purpose. But, then, what is philosophy today—philosophical activity, I mean—if it is not the critical work that thought brings to bear on itself? In what does it consist, if not in the endeavor to know how and to what extent it might be possible to think differently, instead of legitimating what is already known? There is always something ludicrous in philosophical discourse when it tries, from the outside, to dictate to others, to tell them where their truth is and how to find it, or when it works up a case against them in the language of naive positivity. But it is entitled to explore what might be changed, in its own thought, through the practice of a knowledge that is foreign to it. The "essay"—which should be understood as the assay or test by which, in the game of truth, one undergoes changes, and not as the simplistic appropriation of others for the purpose of communication—is the living substance of philosophy, at least if we assume that philosophy is still what it was in times past, i.e., an "ascesis," askesis, an exercise of oneself in the activity of thought.

Michel Foucault
The Use of Pleasure (1984, trans. 1985)

Teaching Theory, Beginning Theory

Commonplacing (XV through XIX)