07 October 2007

Gendlin's Philosophy of the Implicit

Back in August, in a comment on my post Salvation and/or Nirvana post, Tzutzu raised a deep philosophical question which has been at the back of my mind ever since. Since then i've written down several ways of posing the question and of answering it as they occurred to me. But i decided not to post them here (since i'm not one of those bloggers who feels obligated to post regularly!). Here's my only restatement of the question that survives:

Just because my present understanding can be formulated, does that mean it is reduced to a formula?

Once an experience has been formulated, the experiencing seems to evaporate, leaving only the empty husk of the formula behind. And if you try to invest it with new life, the formula seems to act as a strait-jacket or a Procrustean bed, suffocating or mutilating any new meaning that might have emerged. (This appears to be a recurring postmodern nightmare.)

The good news is that there are ways to wake up from this nightmare. You can learn to dip into the source of meaning and let it emerge in forms that don't self-abort upon utterance. In fact you do this all the time, or you couldn't even make sense of the present sentence. One way of realizing this is to see how the process works even as it works implicitly in your seeing and your meaning. This could be done in terms of semiotics, or buddha-dharma, or no doubt many other ways of which i'm unaware. But the most straightforward plain-English approach to such a question that i know of is Eugene Gendlin's.

The Gendlin piece i recommended to Tzutzu was
Thinking Beyond Patterns—which is the one i recommend for those who already have some background in modern and postmodern philosophy. But it's a fairly long read; perhaps a better introduction to Gendlin (because it's much shorter) is Crossing and Dipping. Both have my highest recommendation for anyone with a philosophical heart who's put off by academic philosophy.

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