Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Half a Century of Philosophy

Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Half a Century of Philosophy

Article excerpt

The following publication (...) has asked me to relate to its readers what has taken place in philosophical thought during the first fifty years ofthis century.1 Philosophical thought is a human task, but human tasks are not strictly speaking "things," as it were, but rather "things that happen to man"; they are events that happen to someone, unlike those brincadeiras that are called physical events that happen to no one. Nevertheless events that "happen to someone" cannot be properly communicated unless they are communicated in a narrative manner. Narrative reason or historical reason, then, is the only form of reason that allows us to understand human tasks. Let us therefore, offer an account of philosophical thought from 1900 to 1950. Such an enterprise, in this case, is one of desperation, since I cannot inundate this issue of (...) with my writing. I am only granted a short space and I am compelled to be concise. But it is also the case that historical reason offers a great deal of resistance when a premium is placed on conciseness. Historical reason can be a prolix method given its own essence; it is an interminable tale-bearing, a "never ending story." This is why it is not by chance that Dilthey, who was the first person to glimpse historical reason and who dedicated, without distractions, a long life to such a theme, is characterized as doing nothing more than just coming up with truncated fragments, stumps, projects, first volumes, first chapters, sighs, and stammerings.

Let us then search-together-you readers and I for what could be a history of philosophical thought in the last fifty years. This chronological trajectory coincidentally coincides with my life; and therefore no one can tell me this history, given that it is part of my own existence. For this very reason my narration will seem at times to express an autobiographical character. Autobiography is the superlative form of historical reason.

Life is a repertory or system of occupations precisely because it is given to us empty and because one has no other choice but to attempt to fill it, to occupy it. Philosophy, then, is one of these occupations that man exercises. Heidegger claims that man is philosophy; so that all men in all epochs have been preoccupied with this peculiar manner of life which is to philosophize. But this thought of Heidegger's is hyperbolical, uncontrollable, and thus annihilates the very portion of truth that it contains. In order that, in all truth, it can be said that to live is to philosophize, it would be necessary to stretch the concept of philosophy to the point of emptying it. It has occurred to me that to think is totally the opposite of "making all cats brown" because then it would not be worthwhile to talk about cats. Without a doubt, man always has a determined attitude toward that which can be called "ultimacy," even when this attitude is negative, for example, or agnostic, or simply short of memory, or even negligent. But philosophy is not just any type of such an "ultimate" attitude, but rather a precise and exclusive aspect of such an attitude; philosophy means having to confront eschatological problems with the very instrument that is reason itself. But there are other ways of confronting them. For example, during several millennia, man preferred inebriating himself with a kind of frenzy.

One of man's most primitive creations was what anthropologists have called "sweat lodges" where steaming rocks were used, which brought about such extreme perspiration that man became enraptured, delirious. While in this state of delirium he believed himself to be capable of embracing that which to them seem transcendent.

In my judgment, therefore, instead of hyperbolizing and abstracting the ideas of human occupations, I think that it is urgent to restrict and concretize them instead. It is very dangerous to attribute the same name to activities that only partially and superficially resemble one another. …

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